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Air-Side and Plant-Side Resistances Influence the Uptake of Airborne PCBs by Evergreen Plants.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2002
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Journal number15
Volume36
Number of pages6
Pages3224-3229
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The transfer of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) from air to vegetation is an important air-surface exchange process that affects global cycling and can result in human and wildlife exposure via the terrestrial food chain. To improve understanding of this process, the uptake of gas-phase polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) by two slow-growing evergreen shrubs, Skimmia japonica Thunb. and Hebe "Great Orme", was studied to investigate the influence of air-side and plant-side resistances. Uptake of PCBs was monitored over periods of hours, days, and weeks. Uptake rates were higher in the smaller Hebe leaves than the Skimmia leaves. Equilibrium was not attained between air and plants in the duration of the experiments; uptake curves were indicative of a two-phase uptake-step 1 over the order of hours and step 2 continuing steadily over days to weeks. Uptake rates (h-1) were greater in conditions simulating typical ambient wind speeds (2 m s-1) than under still air, indicating a significant impact of air-side resistance relative to plant-side resistance in still air. Wind speed is an important variable that has not been previously considered in studies of the air-plant transfer of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Uptake rate constants increased with increasing level of chlorination (and hence KOA) both in still air and under turbulent conditions. This was inconsistent with the idea of air-side resistance dominating uptake, since diffusion rates in air decrease with molecular weight (and hence KOA). Greater uptake of particle-bound PCBs may have contributed to this finding, but the most likely explanation is the previously established relationship that the permeability of cuticles increases with increasing KOA of the diffusing chemical. The findings indicate that plant-side resistance can have an important effect on uptake rates of different PCB congeners in the field, even when air-side resistance is high.