Analytica Chimica Acta, 623(2), p. 140-145 (2008); doi:10.1016/j.aca.2008.06.029
The impact of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) on the environment and their potential risk in animal and human health is a present concern. Therefore, existing legislation in the European Union demands that polymers with BFRs are identified and eliminated from the recycling process due to their potential health hazard. In this work, a flow-injection (FI) system coupled to inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) was optimized for the detection of traces of bromine in polymers, plastic paints and enamels containing BFRs. Sample preparation requires a microwave-assisted digestion in order to transfer bromine in polymeric samples to solution. After appropriate optimization of the digestion procedure and the ICP-MS detection, a detection limit (DL) of 4.2 mg kg−1 was obtained for synthesized polyurethane standards containing known concentrations of bromine. The precision of the proposed method, evaluated as the R.S.D. of signals obtained for three replicates of polymeric standard BFRs at the normative EU level, was as low as 3.6%. This simple developed methodology was characterized for the screening of bromine in polymeric matrices. The proposed system provides rapid binary yes/no overall responses, being appropriate for the screening of bromine above a pre-set concentration threshold. The unreliability region (UR), given by the probability of false positives and false negatives (set at 5% in both cases), was in the range between 442 and 678 mg kg−1 of bromine (at a cut-off level of 0.1% in BFRs by weight of homogeneous material fixed by the EU normative). Finally, the applicability of the proposed screening system was tested for the reliable control of bromine in different commercial samples including flame-retardant paints and enamels.