Hexabromocyclododecane in polystyrene packaging: A downside of recycling?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


External organisations

  • School of Physics, National University of Ireland Galway, University Road, Galway, Ireland.


While there are no regulatory fire safety obligations for polystyrene (PS) when used as packaging material, concerns exist that such packaging material may contain the flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD) as a result of uncontrolled recycling activities. To evaluate these concerns, we collected 50 samples of PS packaging materials from the UK and 20 from Ireland. HBCDD was detected in 63 (90%) of samples, with concentrations in 4 samples from Ireland exceeding the EU's low POP concentration limit (LPCL) of 0.1% above which articles may not be recycled. Moreover, 2 further samples contained HBCDD >0.01%. While our samples were obtained in the 12 month period prior to the March 2016 introduction of the EU's 0.01% concentration limit above which articles may not be placed on the market, our data suggest that continued monitoring is required to assess compliance with this limit value. Ratios of α vs. γ-HBCDD in our EPS packaging samples (average = 0.63) exceeded significantly (p = 0.025) those in EPS building insulation material samples (average = 0.24) reported previously for Ireland. This shift towards α-HBCDD in packaging EPS is consistent with the additional thermal processing experienced by recycled PS and suggests the source of HBCDD in PS packaging is recycled PS insulation foam. This is of concern owing to the higher bioavailability and lower metabolic clearance of α-HBCDD compared to the β- and γ-isomers.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)612-616
Number of pages5
Early online date15 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


  • HBCDD , Flame retardants , unintentional contaminants , recycled plastics , EPS , XPS