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Levels and profiles of PCBs and OCPs in marine benthic species from the Belgian North Sea and the Western Scheldt Estuary

Publication Date
  • Fish
  • Marine Invertebrates
  • Pcb
  • Pesticides
  • Pisces [Fish]
  • Ane
  • Belgium
  • Ane
  • Netherlands
  • Westerschelde
  • Belgium
  • Zeeschelde


Various benthic invertebrates (flying crab, common shrimp, and red starfish), small fish (sand goby), benthic flatfish (dab, plaice, and sole) and gadoids (bib and whiting) were collected in the Belgian North Sea and along the Scheldt Estuary, both representing areas impacted by various contaminants to different degrees. The levels of 25 polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and 15 organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), which included penta- and hexachlorobenzene, alpha-, bèta-, and gamma-hexachlorocyclohexane isomers, chlordanes, and DDT and metabolites, were determined. Sum of PCBs and OCPs in benthic invertebrates and goby ranged from 1.5 to 280 ng/g wet weight (ww) and from 0.27 to 23 ng/g ww, respectively. The fish livers revealed total PCB and OCP levels ranging from 20 to 3200 ng/g ww and from 6.0 to 410 ng/g ww, respectively. Levels of both contaminant groups were significantly higher in samples from the Scheldt Estuary compared to the Belgian North Sea. For most species a highly inverse correlation was found between the concentration of contaminants and the distance to Antwerp (r between 0.812 and 0.901, p<0.05), pointing to a higher degree of exposure further upstream. PCB and OCP exposures are highly correlated (r between 0.836 and 1.000, p<0.05), which suggests that the pollution can be classified as historical. However, because urban and industrial centres may still be emitting these compounds, more recent point and non-point sources cannot be ruled out.

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