Recycling plastics containing decabromodiphenyl ether into new consumer products including children's toys purchased in Japan and seventeen other countries

Chemosphere. 2022 Feb:289:133179. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2021.133179. Epub 2021 Dec 4.


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are flame retardants widely used to manufacture several commercial plastic products. The major homologue in commercial PBDE mixtures are listed in the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and are scheduled for global elimination. Hence, to understand more about unintentional contamination of plastic recycling stream by restricted PBDEs, we examined 540 small plastic consumer products (1139 components after dismantling), including children's toys, purchased in 18 countries (mainly Japan) between 2015 and 2019. Handheld X-ray fluorescence analysis revealed that 219 plastic components (19% of the total samples) contained bromine at a concentration of ≥30 mg kg-1. Chemical analysis of these bromine-positive components revealed that 109 pieces (9.6% of the total), mainly those made of black-colored plastic, contained PBDEs at concentrations ranging between 35 and 10,000 mg kg-1, with the maximum contribution from decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE). These PBDE concentrations were insufficient to impart flame retardancy, suggesting that the recycled plastic used to manufacture these consumer products probably originated from electronic waste, the manufacture of which was the primary use of commercial decaBDE mixtures. PBDEs were also found in secondary raw plastic materials and their final products obtained in India in 2019, demonstrating that plastics containing decaBDE end up in products where they serve no functional purpose. To contribute to the circular economy, the recycling of plastic waste in end-of-life products should be promoted. However, urgent action is needed to prevent plastic additives of concern, including PBDEs, from entering new products used in daily lives, particularly those used by children.

Keywords: Black plastic; Brominated flame retardants (BFRs); Circular economy; Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs); decaBDE; e-waste.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Electronic Waste* / analysis
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Flame Retardants* / analysis
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / analysis
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Plastics
  • Recycling


  • Flame Retardants
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers
  • Plastics
  • decabromobiphenyl ether