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Including degradation products of persistent organic pollutants in a global multi-media box model
Schenker, U.; Scheringer, M.; Hungerbühler, K. (2007). Including degradation products of persistent organic pollutants in a global multi-media box model. Environm. Sc. & Poll. Res. 14(3): 145-152.
In: Environmental Science and Pollution Research. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0944-1344, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

    Hazard assessment; Organochlorine pesticides; Persistence; Pesticides; Marine
Author keywords
    arctic contamination potential; degradation products; environmental fatemodeling; hazard assessment; organochlorine pesticides; persistence;spatial range; transformation products

Authors  Top 
  • Schenker, U.
  • Scheringer, M.
  • Hungerbühler, K.

    Goal, Scope and Background. Global multi-media box models are used to calculate the fate of persistent organic chemicals in a global environment and assess long-range transport or arctic contamination. Currently, such models assume substances to degrade in one single step. In reality, however, intermediate degradation products are formed. If those degradation products have a high persistence, bioaccumulation potential and / or toxicity, they should be included in environmental fate models. The goal of this project was to gain an overview of the general importance of degradation products for environmental fate models, and to expand existing, exposure-based hazard indicators to take degradation products into account. Methods. The environmental fate model CliMoChem was modified to simultaneously calculate a parent compound and several degradation products. The three established hazard indicators of persistence, spatial range and arctic contamination potential were extended to include degradation products. Five well-known pesticides were selected as example chemicals. For those substances, degradation pathways were calculated with CATABOL, and partition coefficients and half-lives were compiled from literature. Results. Including degradation products yields a joint persistence value that is significantly higher than the persistence of the parent compound alone: in the case of heptachlor an increase of the persistence by a factor of 58 can be observed. For other substances, the increase is much smaller (4% for a-HCH). The spatial range and the arctic contamination potential (ACP) can increase significantly, too: for 2,4-D and heptachlor, an increase by a factor of 2.4 and 3.5 is seen for the spatial range. However, an important increase of the persistence does not always lead to a corresponding increase in the spatial range: the spatial range of aldrin increases by less than 50%, although the persistence increases by a factor of 20 if the degradation products are included in the assessment. Finally, the arctic contamination potential can increase by a factor of more than 100 in some cases. Discussion. Influences of parent compounds and degradation products on persistence, spatial range and ACP are discussed. Joint persistence and joint ACP reflect similar characteristics of the total environmental exposure of a substance family (i.e parent compound and all its degradation products). Conclusions. The present work emphasizes the importance of degradation products for exposure-based hazard indicators. It shows that the hazard of some substances is underestimated if the degradation products of these substances are not included in the assessment. The selected hazard indicators are useful to assess the importance of degradation products. Recommendations and Perspectives. It is suggested that degradation products be included in hazard assessments to gain a more accurate insight into the environmental hazard of chemicals. The findings of this project could also be combined with information on the toxicity of degradation products. This would provide further insight into the importance of degradation products for environmental risk assessments.

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