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Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2011 Mar 13;369(1938):1085-111. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2010.0298.

Chemical signatures of the Anthropocene in the Clyde estuary, UK: sediment-hosted Pb, (207/206)Pb, total petroleum hydrocarbon, polyaromatic hydrocarbon and polychlorinated biphenyl pollution records.

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British Geological Survey, Kingsley Dunham Centre, Keyworth, Nottingham NG12 5GG, UK.


The sediment concentrations of total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPHs), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), Pb and (207/206)Pb isotope ratios were measured in seven cores from the middle Clyde estuary (Scotland, UK) with an aim of tracking the late Anthropocene. Concentrations of TPHs ranged from 34 to 4386 mg kg(-1), total PAHs from 19 to 16,163 μg kg(-1) and total PCBs between less than 4.3 to 1217 μg kg(-1). Inventories, distributions and isomeric ratios of the organic pollutants were used to reconstruct pollutant histories. Pre-Industrial Revolution and modern non-polluted sediments were characterized by low TPH and PAH values as well as high relative abundance of biogenic-sourced phenanthrene and naphthalene. The increasing industrialization of the Clyde gave rise to elevated PAH concentrations and PAH isomeric ratios characteristic of both grass/wood/coal and petroleum and combustion (specifically petroleum combustion). Overall, PAHs had the longest history of any of the organic contaminants. Increasing TPH concentrations and a concomitant decline in PAHs mirrored the lessening of coal use and increasing reliance on petroleum fuels from about the 1950s. Thereafter, declining hydrocarbon pollution was followed by the onset (1950s), peak (1965-1977) and decline (post-1980s) in total PCB concentrations. Lead concentrations ranged from 6 to 631 mg kg(-1), while (207/206)Pb isotope ratios spanned 0.838-0.876, indicative of various proportions of 'background', British ore/coal and Broken Hill type petrol/industrial lead. A chronology was established using published Pb isotope data for aerosol-derived Pb and applied to the cores.


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