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Chemosphere. 2014 Jan;94:70-5. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2013.09.014. Epub 2013 Sep 29.

Evaluation of the release of dioxins and PCBs during kiln-firing of ball clay.

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Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, United States.


Ball clay is known to be naturally contaminated with high levels of polychlorinated di-benzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs). This study evaluated the potential for PCDD, polychlorinated dibenzofuran (PCDF) and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) release during the kiln firing of ball clay in an art studio. Toxic equivalence (TEQ) were calculated using World Health Organization (WHO) 2005 toxic equivalence factors (TEF) and congener concentrations. Ten bags of commercial ball clay were found to have an average TEQ of 1,370 nanograms/kilogram (ng kg(-1)) dry weight (dw), almost exclusively due to PCDDs (99.98% of TEQ). After firing, none of the 29 dioxin-like analytes was measured above the limits of detection (LOD) in the clay samples. Air samples were taken during firings using both low-flow and high-flow air samplers. Few low-flow air samples contained measurable levels of dioxin congeners above the LOD. The mean TEQ in the high volume air samples ranged from 0.07 pg m(-3) to 0.21 pg m(-3) when firing ball clay, and was 0.11 pg m(-3) when no clay was fired. These concentrations are within the range measured in typical residences and well-controlled industrial settings. The congener profiles in the high-flow air samples differed from the unfired clay; the air samples had a considerable contribution to the TEQ from PCDFs and PCBs. Given that the TEQs of all air samples were very low and the profiles differed from the unfired clay, it is likely that the PCDDs in dry ball clay were destroyed during kiln firing. These results suggest that inhalation of volatilized dioxins during kiln firing of dry ball clay is an unlikely source of exposure for vocational and art ceramicists.


Ball clay; Ceramics; Exposure; Furans; Kilns; TEQ

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