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University of Iowa

Superfund Research Program

Atmospheric Sources of PCB Congeners

Project Leader: Keri C. Hornbuckle
Co-Investigator: Victoria Persky (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Grant Number: P42ES013661
Funding Period: 2006-2024

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Project Summary (2006-2010)

While PCBs are semivolatile and commonly measured in air throughout the globe, atmospheric sources of PCBs are almost completely undefined. This project is expanding the knowledge of the sources and distribution of PCBs in air through a major field study coupled with atmospheric modeling. Project investigators are determining the prevalence and distribution of atmospheric PCBs in an urban area. They are monitoring PCBs in air at select residential areas of Chicago, Illinois and East Chicago, Indiana and compare results to Columbus Junction, Iowa. The researchers are utilizing innovative methods in sampling design, including high volume sampling from parked health clinic vans and passive sampling at homes and schools. Over 1,000 air samples are being collected and analyzed for the full suite of PCB congeners each year. The logistics of air sampling is being accomplished by cooperating with local health agencies, schools, and governments. PCB congener analysis is being supported by a fully automated analytical method for atmospheric PCB extraction, concentration, cleanup, analysis, and quality assurance. 

Additional research focuses on characterizing the sources using additional field measurements coupled with mathematical modeling. This work involves characterization of PCBs released from contaminated water--a field and modeling study will examine the water of Indiana Harbor / Shipping Canal in East Chicago as an emission source of PCBs. Dr. Hornbuckle's work will also include characterization of PCBs released from the soils of a former refinery site destined to store PCB contaminated sediments. Finally, the researchers will evaluate mechanistic models, dispersion models, and other computational models for estimating PCB emissions from other (unknown) sources in the Chicago / East Chicago urban industrial region. When characterizing these sources, project investigators will include considerations of the effects of season, local meteorology, topography, re-suspension of contaminated sediment, construction activities at a contaminated site, and regional dispersion.

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