Global accounting of PCBs in the continental shelf sediments
2003 (English)In: Environmental Science and Technology, ISSN 0013-936X, E-ISSN 1520-5851, Vol. 37, no 2, 245-255 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
The recycling longevity of hydrophobic organic contaminants (HOCs) within the global environment is set by their permanent removal through processes such as degradation and burial in geological reservoirs. More than 90% of the global sediment burial of organic carbon (OC) occurs on the continental shelves, representing <10% of the earth's ocean area. The propensity of HOCs to associate with organic matter, and the proximity of most population centers and thus presumed source areas to coastal regions, led us to investigate shelf sediments as a depository of significance for global HOC budgets. Here, the global inventory and burial fluxes of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in continental shelf sediments were estimated on a congener-specific basis from a database of 4214 distinct continental shelf surface sediment samples. To account for near-urban sampling bias, the locations of each datum relative to nearest population center were classified as Local (<1 km), Regional (1−10 km), or Remote (>10 km), according to a comprehensive vector map of the world (Digital Chart of the World) in a GIS environment. The global inventory of, for instance, PCB congener 153 was 1200 ton (95% confidence limit maximum: 2100 ton; and minimum 720 ton). The Remote sub-basin of the North Atlantic contains approximately half of the global shelf sediment inventory for most of the PCB congeners studied. The shelf sediment inventories of individual PCB congeners constitute significant fractions of their recently updated cumulative historical global emissions estimates. The estimated inventory in the shelf corresponds to about 10% of maximum emission estimates for lower-chlorinated congeners. However, for the more bioaccumulable, higher-chlorinated, congeners the shelf reservoirs appear to account for up to 80% of the estimated maximum cumulative global emissions. These shelf inventories represent 1−6% of the global industrial production of PCBs. The global burial fluxes were estimated to be on the order of 8−24 ton/yr each for the eight major congeners investigated, again, with the shelf constituting a more significant removal sink of the more chlorinated congeners. The permanent removal into deeper shelf sediments of PCB153 and PCB180 suggests that the global environmental mean residence times of these pollutants are on the order of 110 and 70 years, respectively. Hence, even after production and direct releases have been halted, we may expect to be exposed to such persistent pollutants for decades and centuries to come.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2003. Vol. 37, no 2, 245-255 p.
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-22893DOI: 10.1021/es0201404OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-22893DiVA: diva2:189694