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The spatial scale of organic chemicals in multimedia fate modeling. Recent developments and significance for chemical assessment.

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Safety and Environmental Technology Group, Laboratory of Chemical Engineering, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH Hönggerberg, CH-8093 Zürich, Switzerland.


In the last years, the spatial range (SR) or characteristic travel distance (CTD) of organic chemicals has found increasing scientific interest as an indicator of the long-range transport (LRT) potential and, in combination with persistence, as a kind of 'hazard' indicator on the exposure level. This development coincides with European debates about more effective and more preventive approaches to the chemicals assessment, and about an international, legally-binding instrument for the phase out of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Persistence and LRT potential are important issues in these debates. Here, the development of the concept of assessing the spatial scale from early ideas in the 1970s and 1980s to recent studies in the field of multimedia fate and transport modeling is summarized. Different approaches to the modeling of environmental transport (advective and dispersive) and different methods for quantifying the SR or CTD are compared. Relationships between SR or CTD and different persistence measures are analyzed. Comparison of these relationships shows that conclusions for chemical assessment should be based on an evaluation of different persistence and spatial scale measures. The use of SR or CTD and persistence as hazard indicators in the chemicals assessment is illustrated.

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