Dioxin-like toxicity in the Saginaw River Watershed: polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, dibenzofurans, and biphenyls in sediments and floodplain soils from the Saginaw and Shiawassee Rivers and Saginaw Bay, Michigan, USA

Kurunthachalam Kannan, Se Hun Yun, Arthur Ostaszewski, John M McCabe, Deborah Mackenzie-Taylor, Allan B Taylor
Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 2008, 54 (1): 9-19
Sediment and floodplain soils in the Saginaw River Watershed, Michigan, USA, have been demonstrated to be contaminated with a variety of organic compounds, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs). Existing data indicate that, at some locations, the contamination exceeds human health risk-based regulatory levels and ecological risk-based screening levels. In this study, concentrations of PCBs including non-ortho coplanar congeners, PCDDs, and PCDFs were measured in more than 120 sediment and floodplain soil samples collected from the Shiawassee River (a tributary of the Saginaw River), the Saginaw River, and Saginaw Bay, to determine the sources and magnitude of contamination, and to elucidate the contributions from individual contaminant groups to the overall 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibezo-p-dioxin equivalents (TEQs). Sediment and soil extracts were also analyzed for total dioxin-like activity by means of the H4IIE-luc cell bioassay. Elevated concentrations of PCBs (>1000 ng/g, dry weight) were found in surface sediment and floodplain soil samples collected from the Shiawassee River near Chase Lake, from Middleground Island in the Saginaw River, and from subsurface sediments in Saginaw Bay. Concentrations of PCDDs and PCDFs in sediment and floodplain soils from the Saginaw River and Saginaw Bay were 2 to 3 orders of magnitude higher than concentrations in the samples from the Shiawassee River. The highest PCDD/F concentration (55,200 pg/g, dry weight in a subsurface layer) was found in sediment collected at the mouth of the Saginaw River. Concentrations of PCDFs were greater than the concentrations of PCDDs in sediment from the Saginaw River. 2,3,7,8-TCDF, 1,2,3,7,8-PeCDF, and 2,3,4,7,8-PeCDF were the major PCDF congeners found in sediments from the Saginaw River. The elevated concentrations of PCDFs, and the predominance of the less highly chlorinated PCDF congeners, in sediments from the Saginaw River were similar to previously determined characteristics of the PCDF contamination of the Tittabawassee River, another tributary of the Saginaw River. These results suggest the existence of a major source of PCDFs within the watershed. A few localized areas of high PCDD/F and PCB concentrations, with unique congener compositions, in the Saginaw River indicated the presence of other minor sources, such as wastewater treatment plants. PCDFs were the major contributors to TEQs in sediment and soils from the Saginaw River and Saginaw Bay. Approximately 30% of the samples analyzed in this study had values exceeding the screening level of 50 pg TEQ/g, dry wt, suggested for soils by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

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