Polychlorinated Biphenyl Dechlorination in Aquatic Sediments

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Science  08 May 1987:
Vol. 236, Issue 4802, pp. 709-712
DOI: 10.1126/science.236.4802.709


The polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) residues in the aquatic sediments from six PCB spill sites showed changes in PCB isomer and homolog (congener) distribution that indicated the occurrence of reductive dechlorination. The PCB dechlorinations exhibited several distinct congener selection patterns that indicated mediation by several different localized populations of anaerobic microorganisms. The higher (more heavily chlorinated) PCB congeners that were preferentially attacked by the observed dechlorination processes included all those that are either pharmacologically active or persistent in higher animals. All the lower (less heavily chlorinated) PCB congeners formed by the dechlorinations were species that are known to be oxidatively biodegradable by the bacteria of aerobic environments.

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