Empirical and modeling evidence of regional atmospheric transport of current-use pesticides



Water samples from 30 lakes in Canada and the northeastern United States were analyzed for the occurrence of 27 current-use pesticides (CUPs). Eleven CUPs were frequently detected in lakes receiving agricultural inputs as well as in remote lakes hundreds of kilometers from known application areas. These included the triazine herbicide atrazine and its desethylated degradation product; the herbicides alachlor, metolachlor, and dacthal; the organophosphate insecticides chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and disulfoton; the organochlorine insecticides α-endosulfan and lindane; and the fungicides chlorothalonil and flutriafol. For six of the pesticides, empirical half-distances on the order of 560 to 1,820 km were estimated from the water-concentration gradient with latitude. For most of the pesticides, a suite of assessment models failed to predict such atmospheric long-range transport behavior, unless the effect of periods of lower hydroxyl radical concentrations and dry weather were taken into account. Observations and model results suggest that under the conditions prevailing in south-central Canada (relatively high latitude, low precipitation rates), many CUPs will be able to undergo regional-scale atmospheric transport and reach lakes outside areas of agricultural application. When assessing the potential of fairly reactive and water-soluble substances to undergo long-range transport, it is imperative to account for periods of no precipitation, to assure that degradation rate constants are correct, and to apply oxidant concentrations that are valid for the region and time period of interest.