Dioxin Chronology and Fluxes In Sediments of the Houston Ship Channel, Texas: Influences of Non-Steady-State Sediment Transport and Total Organic Carbon

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Marine Science


Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (dioxins) are persistent contaminants that bioaccumulate and pose serious risks to humans. The primary objective of this study was to determine the history and mechanisms of dioxin accumulation in sediments of the Houston Ship Channel (HSC) using analytical data on natural and anthropogenic radionuclides ((7)Be, (137)Cs, and (210)Pb) and dioxins. Results showed that present-day sedimentary dioxin accumulation rates are orders of magnitude higher than atmospheric inputs to the HSC. Most stations showed dioxin peaks in the near surface, indicating continuing inputs despite federal regulations. Stations with high dioxin inventories reflect accentuated accumulation in the HSC as one moves west toward Houston, at the confluence of the HSC and the San Jacinto River and upstream in the San Jacinto River. These results indicate that a significant quantity of dioxins continues to be released into the environment here or that sedimentary storage and release of previously supplied dioxins is significant, or both. The results support the interpretation that the HSC is influenced by episodic sediment resuspension, erosion and lateral transport processes driven by tides, wind, shipping, and dredging, which can cause intermittently high accumulations of dioxins, and underscores the need for additional research on the roles of sedimentary processes in organic contaminant bioavailability.

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Environmental Science & Technology





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