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Environ Int. 2012 Nov 1;48:17-27. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2012.06.017. Epub 2012 Jul 24.

Persistent organic pollutants in the Scheldt estuary: environmental distribution and bioaccumulation.

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  • 1Laboratory of Systemic Physiological and Ecotoxicological Research, Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171, 2020 Antwerp, Belgium.


Levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) were determined in the sediment and several species (European flounder, Platichthys flesus; common sole, Solea solea; Chinese mitten crab, Eriocheir sinensis; shore crab, Carcinus maenas; brown shrimp, Crangon crangon; blue mussel, Mytilus edulis and bristle worms, Polychaeta) from 7 locations in the Scheldt estuary (SE, the Netherlands-Belgium). Overall POP levels in the sediment were low. The average PCB and PBDE concentrations were respectively 31.5 and 115 ng/g dry weight (dw). Highest sediment loads were measured in the vicinity of Antwerp (368 ng PCBs/g dw), a location with intense harbor and industrial activities. Pollution concentrations in the tissues of biota were species-specific. Blue mussels contained the highest lipid concentrations (2.74±0.55%) and reached the highest contamination levels (from 287 to 1688 ng PCBs/g ww, from 2.09 to 12.4 ng PBDEs/g ww). Lowest tissue loads were measured in brown shrimp (from 3.27 to 39.9 ng PCBs/g ww, from 0.05 to 0.47 ng PBDEs/g ww). The PCB congener profile in most of the species was similar with the pattern found in the sediment. PCB 153 was the most abundant congener (16.5-25.7% in biota, 10.4% in sediment). In the sediment, the total amount of PBDEs consisted for more than 99% of BDE 209. Congener BDE 47 had the highest concentrations in all sampled species (38.5-70.1%). Sediment POP loadings and tissue concentrations were poorly correlated, indicating that a simple linear or non-linear relationship is insufficient to describe this relationship, possible caused by the complexity of the bioaccumulation processes and the variability in exposure. Because of the high PCB levels, regular consumption of fish and seafood, especially mussels, from the Scheldt estuary should be avoided.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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