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Persistent organic pollutants in European background air : derivation of temporal and latitudinal trends.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


  • Rosalinda Gioia
  • Eiliv Steinnes
  • Gareth O. Thomas
  • Sandra N. Meijer
  • Kevin C. Jones
Journal publication date2006
JournalJournal of Environmental Monitoring
Number of pages11
Original languageEnglish


Data are presented for polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated diphenyls ethers (PBDEs) and selected organochlorine compounds (OCs) in passive air samplers (PAS) along a rural/remote latitudinal transect from southern UK to northern Norway during 2002–2004. This study is part of an ongoing campaign, using semi-permeable membrane devices (SPMDs) as PAS over two year intervals since 1994. Data for PCBs, selected OCs and PBDEs are compared with that from previous campaigns. Absolute sequestered amounts of selected PCB congeners have decreased in a first order fashion between 1994–2004, with an average atmospheric clearance rate of 4.1 ± 0.6 years and continue to fractionate with latitude. HCB has also declined between 1998–2004, with a clearance rate of 6 ± 2.4 years. Data on DDT and its breakdown products indicate little fresh release in Europe. Comparison of PBDEs in 2000–02 and 2002–04 indicates site differences, generally with increases at UK sites and decreases in Norway. BDE-28, 47 and 49 decreased with increasing latitude (p < 0.04), while the other congeners did not show any significant latitudinal dependence. Transect data are presented for PAHs the first time. Three- and 4-ringed compounds dominated the mixture present in the SPMD. The PAH composition of the SPMDs at site 3 was compared to the average composition taken by active sampling at the same site. SPMD performance for sampling PAHs leaves many uncertainties, but they can be successfully used to semiquantitatively detect PAHs in the atmosphere. Fluorene and phenanthrene increased with latitude (p > 0.05), while 1-methylphenanthere, fluoranthene, benzo[b]fluoranthene and indeno[123-cd]pyrene decreased. Results are discussed in terms of sources, long-range atmospheric transport, global fractionation and clearance processes.