PCBs and OCPs on a east-to-west transect: The importance of major currents and net volatilization for PCBs in the atlantic ocean

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Air-water exchange gradients of selected polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners across a large section of the tropical Atlantic suggested net volatilization of PCBs to the atmosphere. Only for the higher chlorinated PCB 153 and hexachlorobenzene (HCB) were gradients near equilibrium detected. The use of passive samplers also enabled the detection of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and its transformation products across the tropical Atlantic, indicating net deposition. There were clear differences between the southern and northern hemisphere apparent in terms of atmospheric concentrations: Once the ship moved from the southern into the northern hemisphere air, concentrations of HCB and other organochlorine pesticides increased several-fold. For large swaths of the tropical Atlantic Ocean, neither PCB nor organochlorine pesticide dissolved concentrations varied much longitudinally, probably due to efficient mixing by ocean currents. In selected samples, dissolved concentrations reflected the influence of river plumes and major ocean currents far away from the continents. Dissolved concentrations of PCBs 28, 52, 101, 118, and HCB increased in the Amazon plume and the Gulf Stream. While the Amazon plume flushed only a few kg of PCBs and HCB, the Gulf Stream is potentially delivering tons of PCBs into the North Atlantic annually. © 2012 American Chemical Society.

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Environmental Science and Technology