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Further evidence for the existence of PCDD/Fs in the environment prior to 1900.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date05/2001
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Journal number10
Volume35
Number of pages8
Pages1974-1981
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

PCDD/Fs and PCBs have been analyzed in a series of archived soil samples collected from various depths during the 1800s and early 1900s. PCBs were not found in soil samples collected before 1900, whereas PCDD/Fs were present in concentrations between 43 and 110 pg/g in surface soils, and between 9 and 150 pg/g in soils collected from below the surface. The PCDD/F homologue patterns of all surface soils were consistent with each other. The homologue pattern of deeper soils altered with depth to one that was dominated by highly chlorinated PCDDs. The highest Σ(4-8)PCDD/F concentration (150pg/g) was found in the deepest soil analyzed (230−250 cm below the surface). The cork from one of the storage bottles contained considerable quantities of both PCBs and PCDD/Fs. However, contamination of the soils, either by diffusion through the cork or by cork particles, was discounted on the basis that no PCBs were evident in the soil, and that the PCDD/F homologue pattern in the cork was very different to that found in the soil. Similar arguments were used to discount contamination of the soil by dust. A sample of ashed vegetation from the archive, that had no cork stopper, contained high concentrations of PCBs (78 ng/g), concentrations of mono- to tri-CDFs that were higher than in any of the soils (190 pg/g), but very low concentrations of Σ(4-8)PCDD/F (12 pg/g). This pattern of analytes was considered to be representative of contamination from store room air and was completely different from the pattern observed in the soils. Taken together these observations indicate that contamination during storage, or subsequent handling, is unlikely to have occurred in archived soil samples that were stored with cork and wax seal intact. The results imply surface soil Σ(4-8)PCDD/F concentrations of around 60 pg/g at Rothamsted (southeast England) in the late 1800s, compared with 300 pg/g reported for rural UK soils in the 1990s.