UI Scientists Identify Multiple Sources of PCBs in Cleveland, Chicago

Monday, January 25, 2010

University of Iowa News Release

A University of Iowa study suggests that scientists should investigate multiple sources of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in urban areas instead of focusing on one large source.

Scientists have known that PCBs exist in urban atmospheres, but they didn't know if the sources were localized or distributed across the cities. Using air samplers in Cleveland and Chicago, UI researchers discovered multiple sources.

The UI team is interested in more precisely examining the scope of urban contamination in these cities because potentially toxic PCBs can deposit in the Great Lakes, ultimately getting into fish that may be consumed by humans. Also, airborne PCBs could indicate the presence of contaminated soils or building materials that may pose direct health hazards to humans.

"Acknowledging and examining the multiple sources of PCBs will be helpful in developing remediation efforts," said Keri Hornbuckle, professor of civil and environmental engineering in the UI College of Engineering. "Our work indicates that we probably cannot focus on just one large source in a city."

The air samplers were deployed for 20 to 22 days in Cleveland and 13 to 47 days in Chicago, starting in August 2008. The Cleveland samplers covered more area and a larger variety of land uses. Land uses in the area sampled in Cleveland included industrial, residential and rural sites. In Chicago, most of the sampling sites were urban residential.

The study was published by the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Authors of the paper are Hornbuckle; Carolyn Persoon, a graduate student in civil and environmental engineering; Thomas Peters, an assistant professor of occupational and environmental health in the College of Public Health; and Naresh Kumar, an assistant professor of geography in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Funding for the research project was provided by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS/NIH) Iowa Superfund Basic Research Program.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Graduate College Office of External Relations, 205 Gilmore Hall, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: John Riehl, 319-335-3260, john-riehl@uiowa.edu