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Legacy contaminants are decreasing more quickly than previously reported in three of the Great Lakes, but have stayed virtually the same in two other lakes, according to new research.
The four studies cited in this article are:
Chang F, Pagano JJ, Crimmins BS, Milligan MS, Xia X, Hopke PK, Holsen TM (2012). “Temporal trends of polychlorinated biphenyls and organochlorine pesticides in Great Lakes fish, 1999-2009.” Science of the Total Environment 439, 284-290. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.09.019.
Abstract: Temporal trend analysis of the latest Great Lake Fish Monitoring and Surveillance Program (GLFMSP) data showed statistically significant decreases in persistent bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) contaminant (polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dichloro-diphenyl-trichlorethane and its metabolites (DDTs), dieldrin, cis-chlordane, oxychlordane, cis-nonachlor) concentrations in Lakes Huron, Ontario, and Michigan lake trout over the period of 1999 to 2009. In contrast, for most contaminants, no statistically significant concentration trends were found in top predator fish in Lakes Superior and Erie during the same period. For Lakes Huron, Ontario, and Michigan 5.0±2.6% average annual concentration decreases were found for PCBs, DDTs, dieldrin, and other organochlorine pesticides (OCs) decreased at a faster rate, ranging from 10±4.3% to 20±7.1% per year. For these three lakes, with the exception of PCBs, these current decreases are greater than were shown by an earlier trend analysis that estimated an annual contaminant decrease of about 2-5% for the period of 1980 to 2003. For Lakes Superior and Erie, the finding of no statistically significant trend is in agreement with previously reported results for these lakes.
Ruiqiang Yang, Hua Wei, Jiehong Guo, and An Li (2012). “Emerging Brominated Flame Retardants in the Sediment of the Great Lakes.” Environmental Science and Technology 46 (6), 3119–3126. DOI: 10.1021/es204141p.
Abstract: The concentrations of 13 currently used brominated flame retardants (BFRs) were analyzed in 16 sediment cores collected from the North American Great Lakes. Among them, 1,2-bis(2,4,6-tribromophenoxy)ethane (BTBPE), decabromodiphenyl ethane (DBDPE), hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), 1,2-dibromo-4-(1,2-dibromoethyl)cyclohexane (TBECH), and hexachlorocyclopentadienyl dibromocyclooctane (HCDBCO) were more frequently detected than others. In general, these emerging BFRs have much lower concentrations than polybromodiphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and dechloranes. Inventories of the five BFRs named above, given on a logarithm basis, were found to decrease linearly with the increasing latitude of the sampling locations, but with weaker statistics than those previously reported for the dechloranes. Logarithm of surface fluxes, on the other hand, was found to be a better parameter in correlating with the longitude. With regard to time trends, the exponential increases in concentrations of these BFRs, particularly DBDPE and BTBPE, in recent years are particularly disturbing. The sediment concentration of DBDPE doubles every 3–5 years in Lake Michigan, and approximately every 7 years in Lake Ontario. The corresponding doubling times for BTBPE are about 5 and 7 years in Lakes Ontario and Michigan, respectively, although declines or leveling off were observed in the top sediment layers in Lake Ontario. In contrast to PCBs, PBDEs, and most dechloranes, the correlations between the surface concentration of emerging BFRs and the latitude or longitude of the sampling sites were not strengthened by normalization of the concentration based on the organic matter content of the sediment.
Marie-Line Gentes, Robert J. Letcher, Élyse Caron-Beaudoin, and Jonathan Verreault (2012). “Novel Flame Retardants in Urban-Feeding Ring-Billed Gulls from the St. Lawrence River, Canada.” Environmental Science and Technology 46 (17), 9735–9744. DOI: 10.1021/es302099f.
Abstract: This study investigated the occurrence of a comprehensive suite of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and current-use flame retardants (FRs) in ring-billed gulls breeding in a highly industrialized section of the St. Lawrence River, downstream from Montreal (QC, Canada). Despite major point-sources and diffuse contamination by FRs, nearly no FR data have been reported in birds from this area. Bis(2-ethylhexyl)-2,3,4,5-tetrabromophthalate (BEHTBP) was detected in 89% of ring-billed gull livers (mean: 2.16 ng/g ww; max: 17.6 ng/g ww). To our knowledge, this is the highest detection frequency and highest concentrations reported thus far in any avian species or populations. Dechlorane Plus (DP) isomers were also particularly abundant (anti-DP detected in 100% and syn-DP in 93% of livers). Other detected FR compounds (3–14% detection) included 2-ethylhexyl-2,3,4,5-tetrabromobenzoate (EHTBB), hexachlorocyclopentenyl-dibromocyclooctane (HCDBCO) and β-1,2-dibromo-4-(1.2-dibromoethyl)-cyclohexane (β-TBECH). Mean BDE-209 (57.2 ± 12.2 ng/g ww) in ring-billed gull livers was unexpectedly high for this midtrophic gull species, exceeding levels reported in several apex raptors such as peregrine falcons. BDE-209’s relative contribution to ∑PBDEs was on average 25% (exceeding BDE-47 and BDE-99) and contrasted with profiles typically reported for fish-eating gull species. The present study highlighted preoccupying gaps in upcoming FR regulations and stressed the need for further investigation of the sources of FR exposure in highly urbanized areas.
Yuning Ma , Marta Venier , and Ronald A. Hites (2012). “2-Ethylhexyl Tetrabromobenzoate and Bis(2-ethylhexyl) Tetrabromophthalate Flame Retardants in the Great Lakes Atmosphere.” Environmental Science and Technology 46(1), 204–208. DOI: 10.1021/es203251f.
Abstract: Two relatively new flame retardants, 2-ethylhexyl-2,3,4,5-tetrabromobenzoate (TBB) and bis(2-ethylhexyl)-tetrabromophthalate (TBPH), were identified and quantitated in gas and particle-phase air samples collected from six sites near the shores of the Great Lakes. TBB and TBPH were detected in more than half of the samples collected from 2008 to 2010. Urban areas, such as Chicago and Cleveland, showed the highest concentrations (0.36–290 pg/m3), while remote areas, such as Eagle Harbor and Sleeping Bear Dunes, exhibited the lowest levels (0.050–32 pg/m3). The atmospheric concentrations of TBB and TBPH increased rapidly and significantly over this time period, perhaps indicating that these compounds are replacing the polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which have been removed or soon will be removed from the marketplace.