An assessment of persistent organic pollutants in Scottish coastal and offshore marine environments

Lynda Webster, Marie Russell, Pam Walsham, Lesley A Phillips, Ines Hussy, Gill Packer, Eric J Dalgarno, Colin F Moffat
Journal of Environmental Monitoring: JEM 2011, 13 (5): 1288-307
Concentrations of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) were determined in sediment and biota (fish liver) from around Scotland. The concentrations were investigated using assessment criteria developed by OSPAR and ICES. Organic contaminant concentrations, PAHs, PCBs and PBDEs in sediment, and PCBs and PBDEs in fish liver, were significantly higher in the Clyde compared to all other sea areas. This is mainly due to historic industrial inputs. Highest PCB and PAH concentrations were found in the strata furthest up the Clyde estuary, with concentrations of POPs in these strata being at levels such that there is an unacceptable risk of chronic effects occurring in marine species. Furthermore, for PAHs in Clyde sediment there was a significant negative gradient going from north to south towards the open sea. PAH and PCB concentrations in sediment and biota in all other Scottish sea areas (except for PCBs in sediment from East Scotland) were unlikely to give rise to pollution effects, being below relevant assessment criteria. Although no assessment criteria are available for PBDEs, the concentrations observed in Scottish sediments were low with all congeners below the limit of detection (LoD; 0.03 µg kg(-1) dry weight) in 140 out of a total of 307 samples analysed. Where PBDEs were detected, the dominant congeners were BDE47 and BDE99. PBDEs were detected in fish livers, although concentrations were less than 150 µg kg(-1) lipid weight in all sea areas except the Clyde where concentrations ranged between 8.9 and 2202 µg kg(-1) lipid weight. Few trends were detected in contaminant concentrations in biota or sediment at any Scottish site with more than five years data. Downward trends were detected in PAHs in sediment from the Clyde, Irish Sea and Minches and Malin Sea and PCBs in fish liver from the Moray Firth. Rules were developed for the aggregation of the contaminant data across a sea area. An overall assessment for each sea area was then assigned, looking at the frequency of sites or strata within each sea area that were above or below the relevant assessment criteria. Overall the status of the various sea areas, with respect to the assessed POPs, can be considered to be acceptable in that they were below concentrations likely to result in chronic effects for all sea areas except the Clyde.

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