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Contamination status of dioxins in sediment cores from the Three Gorges Dam area, China

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In order to screen dioxin pollution in sediment of Three Gorges Dam (TGD) area, three sediment cores were obtained from two sites in 2010~2011; each core was divided into different samples with every 10 cm depth. Sediment dating determined by radiometry (137Cs, 210Pb) and concentrations of dioxins were analyzed by high-resolution gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. The results indicated: Sediment dating showed no significant difference among all the samples from the same core and the two locations (ANOVA, p > 0.05). The total amount of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDD)/Fs in all sample ranged from 30.7 to 371 pg/g dry weight (d.w.), with the mean value of 66.2 pg/g d.w. PCDDs occupied 60.33~85.22 % of dioxins in each sample, and PCDFs contributed to a very small extend. There was no significant difference in the dioxin concentration between 2010 and 2011 and in the two locations (t test, p > 0.05), but the vertical distribution of dioxins showed significant different in different depths. Toxic equivalent (TEQ) (WHO 2005, Humans) of samples ranged from 0.15 to 1.60 pg/g d.w.; the mean was 0.41 pg/g d.w. No significant difference was found in TEQ between 2010 and 2011(t test, p > 0.05). It could be concluded that the distribution of dioxins showed the spatial heterogeneous which resulted from the strong mixing and sediment deposition characteristics. Dioxin concentration in sediment cores was low with very low environmental risk potential. Dioxins at the two sites had the same origin, and exogenous input was the main source. It is the first report on the dioxins concentrations in sediment cores in the TGD area.

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Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins


Polychlorinated dibenzofurans


Toxic equivalent calculated using TEF proposed by WHO in 2005


Three Gorges Dam


Three Gorges Reservoir


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This study has been jointly supported by the Chinese National Major Programs of Water Body Pollution Control and Remediation (2009ZX07104-005) and the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF, 02WT1130). We are thankful to Dr. Weilan Xia for his help to measure the sediment date. We are also grateful to the editor, the anonymous referees for their expert assistance and comments on this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Yonghong Bi.

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Responsible editor: Hongwen Sun

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Chen, L., Bi, Y., Zhu, K. et al. Contamination status of dioxins in sediment cores from the Three Gorges Dam area, China. Environ Sci Pollut Res 20, 4268–4277 (2013).

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  • Dioxins
  • Sediment core
  • Three Gorges Dam (TGD)