Monitoring temporal trends in environmental levels of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans: results from a 10-year surveillance program of a hazardous waste incinerator

Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2010 Nov;59(4):521-31. doi: 10.1007/s00244-010-9523-4. Epub 2010 Apr 18.


The only hazardous waste incinerator (HWI) in Spain has been operating in Constantí (Tarragona County, Catalonia) since 1999. Before its construction, a surveillance program was initiated to monitor the concentrations of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs) in the neighborhood of the facility. In 2008, 40 soil and 40 vegetation samples were collected and PCDD/F levels determined. The median PCDD/F concentration in soil was 0.49 ng international toxic equivalents (I-TEQ)/kg. Although it meant a nonsignificant decrease of 44% with respect to the preoperational survey, important fluctuations of the levels of PCDD/Fs through time were found in some specific sites. Therefore, a new survey was performed 1 year later (2009) by deleting those sampling sites with inconstant values, which mostly coincided with urban zones. In 2009, the median level of PCDD/Fs in soils was found to be 0.42 ng I-TEQ/kg. In contrast, median PCDD/F levels in vegetation were 1.11 ng I-TEQ/kg, a significant increase compared with previous surveys (range of the median 0.21-0.25 ng I-TEQ/kg). However, this increase was uniformly observed in the entire sampling area, suggesting that lack of rainfall was a key parameter for decreasing plant dilution and wash-up of pollutants on vegetation. This indicates that in surveillance programs, information must be obtained from different sources because the use of a single compartment may yield significant misinterpretation when evaluating temporal trends of environmental pollutants. Human health risks derived from exposure to PCDD/Fs were also assessed for the local population. The results indicated that current concentrations of these contaminants do not pose any additional carcinogenic or noncarcinogenic risk for those people living near the HWI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data*
  • Benzofurans / analysis*
  • Dibenzofurans, Polychlorinated
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Incineration*
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / analogs & derivatives*
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / analysis


  • Air Pollutants
  • Benzofurans
  • Dibenzofurans, Polychlorinated
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins