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Emerging contaminants related to the occurrence of forest fires in the Spanish Mediterranean

Campo, Julian, Lorenzo, María, Cammeraat, Erik L.H., Picó, Yolanda, Andreu, Vicente
The Science of the total environment 2017
canopy, fences, flame retardants, forest fires, organic matter, perfluorocarbons, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, rain, sediments, soil, temperature, vegetation, Spain, United States
Forest fires can be a source of contamination because, among others, of the use of chemicals to their extinction (flame retardants, FRs), or by the production of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) derived from high temperature alteration of organic matter. Up to our knowledge, this study is the first to assess the direct (PAHs 16 on the USA EPA's priority list), and indirect [tri- to hepta- brominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), organophosphorus flame retardants (PFRs) and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs)] contamination related to forest fires. The abundance and distribution of these contaminants were monitored on two Mediterranean hillslopes, one burned and one unburned, near Azuébar (SE Spain). Samples were taken in the foot, middle, and top of the slope, at two depths, and in two environments (under canopy and bare soil). Sediments were collected from sediment fences after erosive rainfall events. Most of the screened compounds were found in both, burned and control hillslopes, though significant differences were found between both. In burned soil, low concentrations of PBDEs (maximum ΣPBDEs: 7.3ngg−1), PFRs (664.4ngg−1) and PFASs (56.4ngg−1) were detected in relation to PAHs (Σ16 PAHs=1255.3ngg−1). No significant influence of the hillslope position was observed for any of the contaminants but differences based on depth and vegetation presence tended to be significant, particularly for the PAHs. After the first erosive event, concentrations of PBDEs and PAHs were higher in sediment than in soil (ΣPBDEs: 17.8ngg−1 and Σ16 PAHs=3154.2ngg−1) pointing out the importance of connectivity processes, especially shortly after fire.