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Keywords:

  • Polychlorinated biphenyl congener measurements;
  • Principal component analysis;
  • Harbor sediment remediation

Abstract

Measurements of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congener concentrations and profiles from produce grown near New Bedford Harbor, Massachusetts, USA, before, during, and after remediation of PCB-contaminated sediment are presented. Samples of tomatoes collected from locations upwind and downwind relative to harbor contamination are compared with the use of measurements of 47 individual PCB congeners. The PCB concentration in the locally grown tomatoes, as expressed by the sum of congeners, is highest during the period of harbor dredging and drops to its lowest point after remediation, which included dredging and excavation. The downwind location is characterized by higher concentrations of PCBs than the upwind location in every time period. Principal component analysis is used to distinguish both the effect of remediation over time and the effect of cultivation location on the congener profiles. Evidence of the PCB congener profile representing the contaminated harbor sediments is strongest during the dredging period and in the downwind location. These results have important implications for understanding human exposure via the food chain and highlight the importance of considering exposure pathways related to atmospheric transport during remediation of contaminated sediments.