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Chemosphere. 2015 Mar;122:168-175. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2014.11.039. Epub 2014 Dec 15.

Dioxins and dioxin-like compounds in composts and digestates from European countries as determined by the in vitro bioassay and chemical analysis.

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Masaryk University, Faculty of Science, RECETOX, Brno, Czech Republic.
European Commission, DG Joint Research Centre (JRC), Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Unit H.01-Water Resources Unit, Ispra, Italy.
Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences and Toxicology Centre, University of Saskatchewan, SK, Canada; Department of Biology & Chemistry and State Key Laboratory in Marine Pollution, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; School of Biological Sciences, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; State Key Laboratory of Pollution Control and Resource Reuse, School of the Environment, Nanjing University, Nanjing, People's Republic of China.


Aerobic composting and anaerobic digestion plays an important role in reduction of organic waste by transforming the waste into humus, which is an excellent soil conditioner. However, applications of chemical-contaminated composts on soils may have unwanted consequences such as accumulation of persistent compounds and their transfer into food chains. The present study investigated burden of composts and digestates collected in 16 European countries (88 samples) by the compounds causing dioxin-like effects as determined by use of an in vitro transactivation assay to quantify total concentrations of aryl hydrocarbon receptor-(AhR) mediated potency. Measured concentrations of 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibeno-p-dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD) equivalents (TEQbio) were compared to concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and selected chlorinated compounds, including polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins/furans (PCDD/Fs), co-planar polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), indicator PCB congeners and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs). Median concentrations of TEQbio (dioxin-like compounds) determined by the in vitro assay in crude extracts of various types of composts ranged from 0.05 to 1.2 with a maximum 8.22μg (TEQbio)kg(-1) dry mass. Potencies were mostly associated with less persistent compounds such as PAHs because treatment with sulfuric acid removed bioactivity from most samples. The pan-European investigation of contamination by organic contaminants showed generally good quality of the composts, the majority of which were in compliance with conservative limits applied in some countries. Results demonstrate performance and added value of rapid, inexpensive, effect-based monitoring, and points out the need to derive corresponding effect-based trigger values for the risk assessment of complex contaminated matrices such as composts.


Biodetection tools; Compost; Digestate; Dioxin; Effect-based monitoring; PAHs

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