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High Abundance of Unintentionally Produced Tetrachlorobiphenyls (PCB47/48/75, 51, and 68) in the Atmosphere at a Regional Background Site in East China

Mao, Shuduan, Zhang, Gan, Zhao, Shizhen, Li, Jun, Liu, Xin, Cheng, Zhineng, Zhong, Guangcai, Malik, Riffat Naseem, Liu, Xiang
Environmental science & technology 2019 v.53 no.7 pp. 3464-3470
air, combustion, polychlorinated biphenyls, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polymers, sealants, seasonal variation, summer, temperature, volatilization, winter, China
Although polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been banned for several decades, they are still detected with elevated levels due to their unintentional production from combustion and industrial thermal processes (UP-PCBs). To investigate the composition and current levels of UP-PCBs and understand which sources are controlling PCB burdens in ambient atmosphere, air samples were collected from August 2012 to August 2015 at a background site in east China. An unexpected high abundance of PCB47+48+75 was observed to be the predominant congener with an average concentration of 786 ± 637 pg/m³. It accounted for 48 ± 16% of ΣPCBs, followed by PCB51 (10 ± 4%), PCB11 (8 ± 6%), and PCB68 (7 ± 3%). Seasonal variations with high levels in summer and lowest levels in winter were observed for PCB47+48+75, 51, and 68. These tetrachlorobiphenyl congeners were strongly correlated with temperature (r² > 0.7), suggesting the control of temperature-dependent volatilization processes from contaminated surfaces. The decreased occurrence of PCB47+48+75, 51, and 68 in commercial products and their negative correlations (|r| < 0.35) with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAHs) and weak correlation with other PCB congeners suggested unique unintentional sources that differ from combustion and industrial thermal processes or pigment, such as the use of polymer sealant, for PCB47+48+75, 51, and 68 in the ambient air.