Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

Researcher analysing a sample

Our research in this area is led by Professor Stuart Harrad. Our internationally leading role in this field is exemplified by hosting the 28th International Symposium on Halogenated Persistent Organic Pollutants in August 2008.

We also chair the UK Knowledge Exchange Network on POPs, and host an annual two-day conference on POPs in April. Currently, we also co-ordinate two major EU-funded Marie Curie Initial Training Networks (INFLAME and A-TEAM), and also the Marie Curie International Research Staff Exchange Scheme project INTERFLAME. As well as collaborations with UK partners, we have strong active research links with organizations in Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Egypt, Greece, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and the USA.

Highlights include:

  • Pioneering use of chirality as a means of distinguishing sources of PCBs in outdoor air and in grass. We have also demonstrated the key role of release from buildings as a continuing source of POPs in the environment. We are now working to exploit chirality to elucidate the influence of chemical precursors of the stainproofing agent PFOS (perfluoro octane sulfonate) on human body burdens of PFOS.
  • Significant contributions to quantifying human exposure pathways to “new” persistent organic pollutants such as brominated and organophosphate flame retardants and perfluoroalkyl chemicals. We are world-leading in developing understanding of the sources and significance of indoor contamination with such substances.
  • Studies of the fate and behaviour of POPs in terrestrial and lacustrine environments. We were the first to report the presence in the environment of the delta form of the high volume flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane.
  • Studies of the dermal absorption of POPs using innovative techniques (led by Dr Mohamed Abdallah).