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Natural Chlordecone Degradation Revealed by Numerous Transformation Products Characterized in Key French West Indies Environmental Compartments

Chevallier, Marion L., Della-Negra, Oriane, Chaussonnerie, Sébastien, Barbance, Agnès, Muselet, Delphine, Lagarde, Florian, Darii, Ekaterina, Ugarte, Edgardo, Lescop, Ewen, Fonknechten, Nuria, Weissenbach, Jean, Woignier, Thierry, Gallard, Jean-François, Vuilleumier, Stéphane, Imfeld, Gwenaël, Le Paslier, Denis, Saaidi, Pierre-Loïc
Environmental science & technology 2019 v.53 no.11 pp. 6133-6143
aquatic ecosystems, biodegradation, chlordecone, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, human health, liquids, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, rivers, sediments, soil, soil pollution, Martinique
Production and use of the insecticide chlordecone has caused long-term environmental pollution in the James River area and the French West Indies (FWI) that has resulted in acute human-health problems and a social crisis. High levels of chlordecone in FWI soils, even after its ban decades ago, and the absence of detection of transformation products (TPs), have suggested that chlordecone is virtually nonbiodegradable in the environment. Here, we investigated laboratory biodegradation, consisting of bacterial liquid cultures and microcosms inoculated with FWI soils, using a dual nontargeted GC-MS and LC-HRMS approach. In addition to previously reported, partly characterized hydrochlordecones and polychloroindenes (families A and B), we discovered 14 new chlordecone TPs, assigned to four families (B, C, D, and E). Organic synthesis and NMR analyses allowed us to achieve the complete structural elucidation of 19 TPs. Members of TP families A, B, C, and E were detected in soil, sediment, and water samples from Martinique and include 17 TPs not initially found in commercial chlordecone formulations. 2,4,5,6,7-Pentachloroindene was the most prominent TP, with levels similar to those of chlordecone. Overall, our results clearly show that chlordecone pollution extends beyond the parent chlordecone molecule and includes a considerable number of previously undetected TPs. Structural diversity of the identified TPs illustrates the complexity of chlordecone degradation in the environment and raises the possibility of extensive worldwide pollution of soil and aquatic ecosystems by chlordecone TPs.