Chemicals of 'emerging concern' mapped in three Great Lakes
Based on soil samples from the lake bottom and core samples from beneath it, they estimate that about 3,000 tons of PHCZs lie in the sediment under lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron. But not all of it is pollution.
"Because the amount of PHCZs we found is so high, and because of their location in the lakes as well as in the sediment cores we took, we believe that most of the PHCZs in these lakes is the result of natural processes," said An Li.
Li is professor of environmental and occupational health sciences in the UIC School of Public Health and corresponding author of the study.
"However, we see some PHCZs in sediment laid down in more recent years, which is very likely from human-made sources. These are considered chemicals of emerging concern and should be monitored carefully," Li said.
PHCZs are similar to dioxins - highly toxic substances that can cause developmental problems and have been linked to certain cancers.
Studies of PHCZs done in zebrafish have shown that these chemicals too can disrupt embryonic development, and another study found that some PHCZs exhibit dioxin-like activity in human breast cancer cells.
Li has monitored environmental pollutants for five years through the Great Lakes Sediment Surveillance program.
Her team has collected more than 1,000 sediment samples from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency research vessel, the R/V Lake Guardian, and analyzed them for a variety of chemical pollutants.
Earlier this year they reported finding herbicides including atrazine in the sediment samples. ■
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