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Indiana University, EPA to study airborne PCBs

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The elevated PCB levels in U.S. lakes and rivers that led to hundreds of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fish consumption advisories in 2003 may be the result of not only the toxin's persistence underground but also its diffusion through the air.

To investigate the phenomenon, the EPA announced today (Sept. 27) that it would continue its collaboration with Indiana University Bloomington environmental scientists Ronald Hites and Ilora Basu to study the toxin's circulation between the air and the Great Lakes. What the scientists learn will help the EPA determine whether new PCB clean-up policies are needed.

"We saw a surprising trend a few years ago," said Hites, Distinguished Professor in IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs. "The concentrations of PCBs began increasing at most sites and then started decreasing again. We still don't know why this happened, but we hope the next few years of data will provide us with some answers."

The EPA will give Hites and Basu $3.5 million to operate the U.S. portion of the Integrated Atmospheric Deposition Network for five more years. As part of their duties, the scientists will measure atmospheric levels of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which result from incomplete combustion), PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers which are widely used as flame retardants), and chlorinated pesticides such as DDT. IU scientists have been running IADN with the EPA and Environment Canada since 1994.

The EPA released data last month showing that elevated PCB levels have led to fish consumption advisories for all five of the Great Lakes, and for many rivers and lakes in or near the Great Lakes Basin. Advisories do not necessarily prohibit fish consumption, but they usually caution consumers to severely limit their consumption of fish caught in tainted waters.

The Great Lakes Basin is inhabited by about 10 percent of the U.S. populat
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Contact: David Bricker
brickerd@indiana.edu
812-856-9035
Indiana University
27-Sep-2004


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