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Variability of concentrations of polybrominated diphenyl ethers and polychlorinated biphenyls in air: implications for monitoring, modelling and control.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date01/2005
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Journal number1
Volume39
Number of pages16
Pages151-166
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Monitoring data indicate that organic compounds with high octanol-air partition coefficients (KOA), such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) exhibit seasonally variable air concentrations, especially during early spring, shortly after snow melt and before bud-burst when levels are elevated. This variability can complicate the interpretation of monitoring data designed to assess year-to-year changes. It is suggested that relatively simple dynamic multimedia mass balance models can assist interpretation by “factoring out” variability attributable to temperature and other seasonal effects as well as identifying likely contaminant sources. To illustrate this approach, high-volume air samples were collected from January to June, 2002 at a rural location in southern Ontario. Gas-phase concentrations for both ΣPBDE and ΣPCB rose from below the detection limit during the winter to 19 and 110 pg m−3, respectively, in early spring, only to decrease again following bud-burst. Passive air samples (PAS), deployed at seven urban, rural and remote sites for two one-month periods prior and following bud-burst, indicate a strong urban–rural gradient for both the PBDEs and PCBs. Calculated air concentrations from the PAS are shown to agree favorably with the high-volume air sampling data, with concentrations ranging 6–85 pg m−3 and 6–360 pg m−3 for ΣPBDE and ΣPCB, respectively. Concentrations in urban areas are typically 5 times greater than in rural locations. These data were interpreted using simulation results from a fate model including a seasonally variable forest canopy and snow pack, suggesting that the primary source is urban and that the “spring pulse” is the result of several interacting factors. Such contaminants are believed to be efficiently deposited in winter, accumulate in the snow pack and are released to terrestrial surfaces upon snow melt in spring. Warmer temperatures cause volatilization and a rise in air concentrations until uptake in emerging foliage leads to a decline in late spring. Implications for monitoring are discussed.