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Factors Influencing the Soil–Air Partitioning and the Strength of Soils as a Secondary Source of Polychlorinated Biphenyls to the Atmosphere

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2011
<mark>Journal</mark>Environmental Science and Technology
Issue number11
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)4785-4792
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Soils are a major reservoir of persistent organic pollutants, and soil–air partitioning and exchange are key processes controlling the atmospheric concentrations and regional fate of pollutants. Here, we report and discuss the concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in soils, their measured fugacities in soil, the soil–air partition coefficients (KSA) and soil–air fugacity gradients in rural background areas of N-NE Spain and N-NW England. Four sampling campaigns were carried out to assess seasonal and daily variability and differences between sampling sites. KSA values were significantly dependent on soil temperature and soil organic matter quantity, and to a minor extent organic matter type. All the PCB congeners in the soil are close to equilibrium with the atmosphere at rural Ebro sites, but soil fugacities tend to be higher than ambient air fugacities in early and late summer, consistent with the influence of temperature on soil–air partitioning. Therefore, during warm periods, soils increment their strength as secondary sources to the atmosphere. The mixture of PCBs found in the atmosphere is clearly strongly influenced by the mixture of PCBs which escape from soil, with significant correlations between them (R2 ranging between 0.35 and 0.74 and p-level <0.001 for the Ebro sampling sites). Conversely, the close-to-equilibrium to net sink status of rural UK sites, suggest a close coupling of air and soil concentrations, but it is not possible to elucidate the importance of these soils as secondary sources yet, and presumably there are still significant primary sources to the regional/global environment.