A nationwide survey of 31 organophosphate esters in sewage sludge from the United States

Yu Wang, Pranav Kannan, Rolf Halden, Kurunthachalam Kannan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Organophosphate esters (OPEs) are used as flame retardants and plasticizers in a wide range of consumer products. Nevertheless, studies on the occurrence and inventory of OPEs in sewage sludge are limited. In this study, 20 OP triesters and 11 diesters were measured in 75 archived sewage sludge samples collected from 67 wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) across the United States (US). The median concentrations of ∑20OP-triesters and ∑11OP-diesters in sludge were 1290 and 78.4 ng/g dry weight (dw), respectively. Sludge samples originating from the Western and Northeastern US contained higher concentrations of OP triesters than did those from the Midwestern and Southern US. Sludge samples from WWTPs with larger treatment capacity (>38 million liters per day) contained higher concentrations of OP diesters (p < 0.05). OP diesters in sludge originated from two sources, triester degradation and direct inputs. Land application of sludge to US soils was estimated to result in annual mass inputs of 12,400–14,900 kg/year of OP triesters and 663–796 kg/year of OP diesters. A hazard assessment was performed for 14 OPEs found in sludge, which suggested a low level of risk at the current land application practices of sludge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)446-453
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Mar 10 2019


  • Degradation
  • Emission
  • Hazard assessment
  • Organophosphate esters
  • Sludge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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