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The Tibetan Plateau (TP) has been contaminated by persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including legacy organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) through atmospheric transport. The exact source regions, transport pathways and time trends of POPs to the TP are not well understood. Here polystyrene–divinylbenzene copolymer resin (XAD)-based passive air samplers (PASs) were deployed at 16 Tibetan background sites from 2007 to 2012 to gain further insight into spatial patterns and temporal trends of OCPs and PCBs. The southeastern TP was characterized by dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT)-related chemicals delivered by Indian monsoon air masses. The northern and northwestern TP displayed the greatest absolute concentration and relative abundance of hexachlorobenzene (HCB) in the atmosphere, caused by the westerly-driven European air masses. The interactions between the DDT polluted Indian monsoon air and the clean westerly winds formed a transition zone in central Tibet, where both DDT and HCB were the dominant chemicals. Based on 5 years of continuous sampling, our data indicated declining concentrations of HCB and hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCHs) across the Tibetan region. Inter-annual trends of DDT class chemicals, however, showed less variation during this 5-year sampling period, which may be due to the ongoing usage of DDT in India. This paper demonstrates the possibility of using POP fingerprints to investigate the climate interactions and the validity of using PAS to derive inter-annual atmospheric POP time trends.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.