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Environ Sci Technol. 2004 Jan 1;38(1):34-41.

Passive air sampling of PCBs, PBDEs, and organochlorine pesticides across Europe.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Science, Institute of Environmental and Natural Sciences, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YQ, UK.


This study presents concurrently sampled ambient air data for a range of persistent organic pollutants at the continental scale. This was achieved using a passive air sampling system, deploying polyurethane foam disks, which was prepared in one laboratory, sealed to prevent contamination, sent out by courier to volunteers participating in different countries, exposed for 6 weeks, collected, resealed, and returned to the laboratory for analysis. Europe was the study area--a region with a history of extensive POPs usage and emission and with marked national differences in population density, the degree of urbanization and industrial/agricultural development. Samplers were deployed at remote/rural/urban locations in 22 countries and analyzed for PCBs, a range of organochlorine pesticides (HCB, alpha-HCH, gamma-HCH, ppDDT, ppDDE), and PBDEs. Calculated air concentrations were in line with those obtained by conventional active air sampling techniques. The geographical pattern of all compounds reflected suspected regional emission patterns and highlighted localized hotspots. PCB and PBDE levels varied by over 2 orders of magnitude; the highest values were detected in areas of high usage and were linked to urbanized areas. HCB was relatively uniformly distributed, reflecting its persistence and high degree of mixing in air. Higher gamma-HCH, ppDDT, and ppDDE levels generally occurred in South and East Europe.

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