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The long shadow of our chemical past – High DDT concentrations in fish near a former agrochemicals factory in England

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>11/2016
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)333-344
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date16/08/16
<mark>Original language</mark>English


A total of 81 roach (Rutilus rutilus) collected from 13 southern English river sites between 2007 and 2012, were analysed for organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, PBDEs and some metals. Unexpectedly high concentrations of the banned insecticide DDT and its degradation products DDE and DDD (∑DDTs) were found in the 10 fish from the river Lee (or Lea) which averaged 88 ± 70 (standard deviation) μg/kg ww, almost 20 times higher than the average for the remaining sites (4.8 ± 3.1 μg/kg). All fish from that site exceeded the Canadian Tissue Residue Guideline (environmental quality standard) of 14 μg/kg ∑DDTs. Concentrations of the insecticides chlordane and lindane as well as copper, which is often used as a fungicide, were also elevated in fish from the Lee, though not as much as those of DDTs. A likely explanation for these observations was found in a nearby former pesticide factory, which had stopped production about three decades earlier.

An extensive review of recent literature data on DDT in wild European fish found that, while levels are now generally low, there were several other hotspots with ∑DDTs levels that may still be of concern.