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Endosulfan, a global pesticide: a review of its fate in the environment and occurrence in the Arctic

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • Jan Weber
  • Crispin J Halsall
  • Derek Muir
  • Camilla Teixeira
  • Jeff Small
  • Keith Solomon
  • Mark Hermanson
  • Hayley Hung
  • Terry Bidleman
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2010
<mark>Journal</mark>Science of the Total Environment
Issue number15
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)2966-84
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This review investigates the fate and behaviour of endosulfan, a current-use organochlorine pesticide, in temperate environments and the Arctic. Usage data and patterns, physical-chemical properties, environmental partitioning and degradation, environmental levels, global distribution and temporal trends are evaluated and discussed in the context of criteria that designate a substance as a persistent organic pollutant. Endosulfan is one of the most abundant OC pesticides in the global atmosphere and is capable of undergoing long range transport to remote locations such as the Arctic. Degradation of the two isomers, alpha- and beta-endosulfan, does occur in temperate/tropical soil and aquatic systems, both by abiotic and biotic processes, although this is highly dependent on the prevailing environmental conditions. Endosulfan sulfate is the major metabolite and this recalcitrant compound has been detected in air and is present in remote mountain lake sediments, although in comparison to alpha-endosulfan, data for this compound in the wider environment are lacking. Temporal trends from ice/snow cores as well as mountain lake sediments reveal a marked increase in endosulfan accumulation from the 1980s onwards. Furthermore, unlike other 'legacy' OC pesticides, levels of alpha-endosulfan do not show a decline in atmospheric monitoring data, reflecting ongoing use of this pesticide in the northern hemisphere. Endosulfan is present at low concentrations (relative to the pesticide, lindane) in surface Arctic Ocean waters, with the atmosphere likely to be the major contemporary source. Residues of endosulfan have been detected in marine biota for different geographical regions of the Arctic, with higher bioaccumulation factors (>10(3)-10(7)) for zooplankton and various species of fish, compared to studies in warmer/temperate systems. Endosulfan is present in marine mammals, although there is uncertainty in the various Arctic biota datasets due to differences in analytical techniques. For some biota, biomagnification factors for alpha-endosulfan are >1, notably from fish to seal, although there is a wide variability in values between the same species for different regions of the Arctic. There is little if any evidence of trophic magnification of alpha-endosulfan in well-defined marine foodwebs, with some evidence of bio-dilution at higher trophic levels, presumably due to increased metabolism. Endosulfan does fulfil several of the criteria under the UNEP Stockholm Convention for designation as a persistent organic pollutant. The alpha- and beta-isomer have similar physical-chemical properties and environmental behaviour to some of the obsolete organochlorine pesticides, although an assessment of their persistence and toxicity should be viewed alongside endosulfan sulfate, as 'Sigmaendosulfan'. Persistence of 'Sigmaendosulfan' coupled to ongoing use of endosulfan pesticides, will ensure continued long-range transport and contamination of remote environments.