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Environmental Persistence of Organic Pollutants: Guidance for Development and Review of POP Risk Profiles


  • Published on the Web 6/24/2009.


Environmental persistence is an important property that can enhance the potential of a chemical substance to exert adverse effects and be transported to remote environments. The persistence of organic compounds is governed by the rates at which they are removed by biological and chemical processes, such as biodegradation, hydrolysis, atmospheric oxidation, and photolysis. The persistence workgroup in a recent Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Pellston workshop (Pensacola, FL, USA, January 2008) focused on evaluating persistence of organic compounds in environmental media (air, water, soil, sediment) in terms of their single-medium degradation half-lives. The primary aim was to provide guidance to authors and reviewers of chemical dossiers for persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic substances (PBTs) proposed for action. A second objective was to provide a summary of the current state of the science with respect to POP fate assessment. Assessing the persistence of chemical substances in the environment is not straightforward. A common misconception is that, like many chemical properties, environmental persistence is an inherent property of the substance and can be readily measured. In fact, rates of degradation of a substance in the environment are determined by a combination of substance-specific properties and environmental conditions. This article addresses how persistence can be evaluated based on an assortment of supporting information. Special attention is given to several critical issues, including transformation products, nonextractable residues, and treatment of uncertainty and conflicting data as part of a weight-of-evidence assessment.