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Key Message

This core indicator evaluates the status of the marine environment based on concentrations of hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD) in Baltic Sea fish and sediments. Good status is achieved when the concentrations of HBCDD are below the specific threshold values. The current evaluation is based on data up to 2016, and the status is assessed for the period 2011-2016.


Key message figure 1. Status assessment results based on evaluation of the indicator 'hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD)'. The assessment is carried out using Scale 4 HELCOM assessment units (defined in the HELCOM Monitoring and Assessment Strategy Annex 4). One-Out-All-Out (OOAO) method (main figure), in biota (lupper inset) and in sediment (lower inset). The left map show the assessment of the primary matrix biota, the right map the secondary. Links: click on map to enlarge and HELCOM data and map service. Note data shown on map is correct – new better quality image to be added. Click here to access interactive maps at the HELCOM Map and Data Service: HBCDD.

Good status is achieved for biota in all assessed areas since the concentrations of HBCDD in fish are below the threshold value in all monitored areas. For sediments good status is achieved for all assessed areas except for the HELCOM scale 4 assessment units LIT-002 and LIT-006 where short time series data (initial data) contribute to the assessment. However, there are areas where data are absent and thus more measurements are required to enable a status evaluation in the entire Baltic Sea.

Time series of HBCDD levels in biota showed increasing concentrations since the 1980s in the Baltic Proper and Bothnian Sea. However, since the 2000s no increases have been observed and decreasing HBCDD concentrations are seen in fish from the west coast and southern coast of Sweden since the late 1990s.

The confidence of the indicator evaluation results is considered to be high. It should also be noted, however, that the majority of the stations are selected as reference stations while potential local problems with HBCDD may occur in areas not included in the current monitoring programmes.

The indicator is applicable in the waters of all the countries bordering the Baltic Sea.

Relevance of the core indicator

HBCDD is a persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic compound with possible impacts on the reproductive and developmental system. The main use of HBCDD is in insulation material in the building industry or as coating for textiles to improve the fire resistance of the materials. Measurements of HBCDD provide information of the contaminant load in the Baltic Sea and the presence of HBCDD in biological samples also reflects the bioavailable part of the contaminant pool. Predators (particularly top predators) and humans are exposed to the contaminant through consumption of the species assessed in this indicator.


Policy relevance of the core indicator

 BSAP segment and objectivesMSFD Descriptor and criteria
Primary link

Hazardous substances

  • Concentration of hazardous substances close to natural levels

D8 Concentrations of contaminants

D8C1 Within coastal and territorial and beyond territorial waters, the concentration of contaminants do not exceed the threshold values.

Secondary link

Hazardous substances

  • Fish safe to eat

D9 Contaminants in fish and seafood

D9C1 The level of contaminants in edible tissues (muscle, liver, roe, flesh or other soft parts, as appropriate) of seafood (including fish, crustaceans, molluscs, echinoderms, seaweed and other marine plants) caught or harvested in the wild (excluding fin-fish from mariculture) does not exceed the threshold values.

Other relevant legislation: The Water Framework Directive and EC regulation No 850/2004 (and its following amendments) and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. ​ ​


Cite this indicator

HELCOM (2018) Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD). HELCOM Core Indicator Report. Online. [Date Viewed], [Web link].

ISSN: 2343-2543

Download full indicator report

Hexabromocyclododecane HBCDD HELCOM core indicator 2018 (pdf)