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Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society


It is thought that a class of broad absorption line (BAL) QSOs, characterised by Fe absorption features in their UV spectra (called `FeLoBALs'), could mark a transition stage between the end of an obscured starburst event and a youthful QSO beginning to shed its dust cocoon, where Fe has been injected into the interstellar medium by the starburst. To test this hypothesis we have undertaken deep SCUBA-2 850 μm observations of a sample of 17 FeLoBAL QSOs with 0.89 ≤ z ≤ 2.78 and -23.31 ≤ MB ≤-28.50 to directly detect an excess in the thermal emission of the dust which would probe enhanced star-formation activity. We find that FeLoBALs are not luminous sources in the submillimetre, none of them are individually detected at 850 μm, nor as a population through stacking (Fs=1.14±0.58 mJy). Statistical and survival analyses reveal that FeLoBALs have sub-mm properties consistent with BAL and non-BAL QSOs with matched redshifts and magnitudes. An SED fitting analysis shows that the FIR emission is dominated by AGN activity, and a starburst component is required only in 6/17 sources of our sample; moreover the integrated total luminosity of 16/17 sources is L≥1012L⊙, high enough to classify FeLoBALs as infrared luminous. In conclusion, we do not find any evidence in support of FeLoBAL QSOs being a transition population between a ULIRG and an unobscured QSO; in particular, FeLoBALs are not characterized by a cold starburst which would support this hypothesis.