Sediments have long been used to help describe pollution sources, contaminated sites, trends over time, and habitat quality for marine life. We collected surficial sediments from 12 sites at an average seawater depth of 25 m in three near-urban areas of the Salish Sea (British Columbia, Canada) to investigate habitat quality for marine life, including heavily contaminated killer whales. Samples were analyzed using high-resolution instrumentation for a wide variety of congeners of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs), hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD), polybrominated biphenyls, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), polychlorinated dibenzofurans, organochlorine pesticides, and polychlorinated naphthalenes (PCNs). The top six contaminant classes detected in sediments were ∑PCB > ∑PBDE > ∑PCDD/F > DDT > ∑HBCDD > ∑PCN. Near-urban harbor sediments had up to three orders of magnitude higher concentrations of contaminants than more remote sites. With limited tools available to characterize biological risks associated with complex mixtures in the real world, we applied several available approaches to prioritize the pollutant found in our study: (1) sediment quality guidelines from the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment where available; (2) US NOAA effects range low and other international guidelines; (3) total TEQ for dioxin-like PCBs for the protection of mammals; and (4) the calculation of risk quotients. Our findings provide an indication of the state of contamination of coastal environments in British Columbia and guidance for chemical regulations and priority setting, as well as management actions including best-practices, dredging, disposal at sea, and source control. In this regard, the legacy PCB and the emergent PBDEs should command continued priority monitoring.
Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology – Springer Journals
Published: May 20, 2017
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