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Exchange of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polychlorinated naphthalenes (PCNs) between air and a mixed pasture sward.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2004
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Journal number14
Volume38
Number of pages9
Pages3892-3900
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

To improve understanding of air-to-vegetation transfer of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), uptake and depuration of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polychlorinated naphthalenes (PCNs) between grass sward and air was investigated. Pasture swards were placed in fanned (2 m s-1 wind speed) and unfanned conditions for a period of 20 days and sampled at intervals. Depuration was carried out after a short (4 days) and a long (14 days) exposure period. Prior to contamination, a mixed pasture sward at a semi-rural location contained PCN concentrations 15-20% of the PCB concentration. Uptake of both PCBs and PCNs was broadly linear in fanned and unfanned conditions over the 20-day period, i.e., the pasture did not reach equilibrium with the air. Uptake rates (fluxes) were greater under the fanned conditions. The difference in uptake rates between fanned and unfanned conditions increased with degree of chlorination for both PCBs and PCNs, ranging between a factor of 2 for tri-chlorinated PCBs and PCNs and a factor 5 for octa-chlorinated PCBs. Depuration results over the first hours were very scattered, showing an initial period of loss, followed by an increase in concentrations, possibly as a result of re-volatilization of PCBs from the soil in the trays, with consequent recapture by the overlying sward. Rapid clearance was observed over the following days, but depuration of PCBs and PCNs was still incomplete after 14 days, with 20% of the initial concentration of the PCBs and 10% of the PCNs retained by the sward. There was no difference in the proportion of POPs retained in the sward between the 4- and 14-day contamination treatments. POP-specific differences in the amount of compound "trapped" in leaves after contamination were observed. The results show that, although changes in the rate of air movement around a pasture have an effect on the uptake rate of POPs into the vegetation, plant-side resistance controls both the air-to-pasture and pasture-to-air exchange of gas-phase PCBs and PCNs; i.e., differences between plant species in cuticle composition and/or structure affecting the permeability of the cuticle are of greater importance than differences in leaf morphology affecting aerodynamic roughness.