, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 407-411
Date: 19 Mar 2014

Exceptionally high concentrations of the insect repellent N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide (DEET) in surface waters from Jakarta, Indonesia

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Jakarta is a booming coastal megacity in Indonesia with over 10 million inhabitants. The rivers flowing through the city district receive enormous amounts of untreated wastewaters from households and industries and discharge high pollutant loads into Jakarta Bay. Applying a screening approach for the identification of characteristic site-specific and harmful organic contaminants, we frequently found the insect repellent N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide (DEET) in river water and seawater samples from Jakarta. The compound was previously reported as persistent aquatic contaminant in industrial countries, and we present here the first data set from a tropical megacity. Concentrations in river water and seawater from Jakarta were exceptionally high, up to 24,000 ng L−1, and exceeded by far all published concentrations in surface waters worldwide. We explained this with massive usage of the compound, lack of wastewater treatment and low average river flow as compared to rivers in other tropical megacities. The usage and properties of DEET indicate its suitability as molecular marker of municipal wastewaters. Such markers are useful to trace emissions from specific pollution sources in aquatic systems as a basis for the investigation of related impacts. We show here that DEET is in particular useful to trace the long-range distribution of municipal wastewaters in tropical freshwater and coastal systems. This application is of great value for tracing such inputs in tropical coastal habitats which are sensitive to changing water quality like coral reefs. This assists to uncover whether specific conditions in these systems could be related to pollutant inputs from land.