Analysis of over 100 studies and publications covers 18 OPEs, which are used as plasticisers and/or flame retardants. Conclusions are that OPEs are widespread in oceans and in the atmosphere, both in coastal waters near industrial regions, and also in remote oceans and polar regions. Total levels of OPEs are increasing and today exceed those of brominated flame retardants in some oceans, as these are phased out. Total OPE concentrations in the ng/litre range are found in polar oceans, both in water and in sediments. Transport is both in air and in water. OPEs are however often non-detectable or at very low levels in animals and birds, but data is limited, and comes mainly from industrialised regions. OPEs undergo degradation or attach to particles and sink in the water column, so providing in the long-term the nutrient phosphorus to ocean ecosystems. The authors conclude that there is “conflicting evidence on the potential for bioaccumulation and biomagnification” and that further data and research is needed.
“Organophosphate ester pollution in the oceans”, Z. Xie et al., Nat Rev Earth Environ (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43017-022-00277-w