, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 721-729

Polychlorinated biphenyl congeners in sediments, plankton, molluscs, crustaceans, and eel in a freshwater lake: Implications of using reference chemicals and indicator organisms in bioaccumulation studies

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The concentrations of six polychlorobiphenyl (PCB) congeners in sediments and four classes of biotic species of the aquatic food chain were investigated in a freshwater lake near Amsterdam. Despite the low concentrations of the contaminants in the sediment, significant amounts of PCBs were found in plankton, macro-invertebrates and fish. The composition of the PCB mixtures found in the various organisms cannot be explained in terms of simple partitioning of the PCB congeners between sediment, water, and organisms. In addition to bioconcentration, it is likely that biomagnification via consumption of contaminated food also contributed significantly to the total PCB concentrations. This is most pronounced for the higher trophic food-chain organisms. Studying bioaccumulation processes by monitoring just one type of organism is probably not very suitable, due to the pronounced differences in accumulation patterns demonstrated for the different organisms. In addition, significant differences were found in the accumulation of the six PCBs in the various biotic samples. This indicates that the fate of mixtures of PCBs is determined by the fate of the individual congeners and therefore cannot be monitored in terms of total PCBs concentrations.