Distribution of pcb congeners in aquatic ecosystems: A case study

M. Bazzanti, S. Chiavarini, C. Cremisini, P. Soldati

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Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) congeners were determined in water samples, sediments, and animal species in the frame era survey of the River Arrone (Central Italy, near Rome) after a major contamination episode. Animal species were selected on the basis of their living and feeding habits and evaluated as candidate bioindicators of PCB pollution in this lotic ecosystem. Total PCB concentrations in water were found to be low (ng/L level), and in sediments, ranged from about 10 to 200 μg/kg dry weight, depending on the distance from the contamination source. PCB patterns in sediments showed a prevalence of higher chlorinated congeners over time. Concentrations in macroinvertebrates (Calopteryx splendens and Anax imperator) ranged from 60 to 400 μg/kg dry weight, showing significantly different species to species patterns. PCB concentrations were almost parallel in sediments for different sampling stations, while differences in patterns among species can be explained in terms of bioaccumulation/excretion mechanisms. Freshwater shrimps (Palaemonetes antennarius) were not found close to the contamination source, as a consequence of their extreme sensitivity to chemicals, and showed a peculiar pattern (almost exclusively determined by Congeners 153, 138, and 180) probably originating from biodegradation mechanisms. Fish samples (Rutilus erythrophthalmus) showed the highest concentrations, as a combination of feeding habit, lipid content, and, probably, less effective biodegradation/excretion pathways. Congener patterns closely match those of Aroclor 1260, which originates from the contamination source. This study confirms that congener physical and chemical parameters different degradation rates, feeding habits, and mobility of the analysed aquatic organisms, metabolism, and excretion mechanisms, are to he considered to explain the distinctive PCB patterns of different samples.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)799 - 813
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental International
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science(all)

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