Atmospheric occurrence, transport and deposition of polychlorinated biphenyls and hexachlorobenzene in the Mediterranean and Black seas
The Mediterranean and Black seas are unique marine environments subject to important anthropogenic pressures due to direct and indirect loads of atmospheric inputs of organochlorine compounds (OCls) from primary and secondary sources. Here we report the results obtained during two east–west sampling cruises in June 2006 and May 2007 from Barcelona to Istanbul and Alexandria, respectively, where gas-phase and aerosol-phase samples were collected. Both matrices were analyzed for 41 polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), including dioxin-like congeners, and hexachlorobenzene (HCB). The values reported in this study for gas-phase HCB and ∑ 41PCB limit of detection (LOD) to 418.3 pg m −3 and from 81.99 to 931.6 pg m −3 respectively) are in the same range of those reported in former studies, possibly suggesting a limited decline in their atmospheric concentrations during the last decade for the Mediterranean region due to land-based OCl sources. There is a clear influence of the direction of the air mass on the atmospheric concentrations of PCBs, with higher concentrations when the air mass was from southern Europe, and the lowest concentrations for air masses coming from the SW Mediterranean and Atlantic Ocean. PCBs and HCB are close to air–water equilibrium for most sampling periods, thus resulting in low atmospheric deposition fluxes at open sea. This is consistent with the oligotrophic character of the Mediterranean Sea with a small influence of the biological pump capturing atmospheric PCBs. Therefore, degradation of gas-phase PCBs by OH radicals is estimated to be the main loss process of atmospheric PCBs during their transport over the Mediterranean Sea. Conversely, atmospheric residence times of HCB are predicted to be very long due to a lack of atmospheric degradation and low depositional fluxes due to concentrations at air–water equilibrium.