PCBs and HCHs in a salt-marsh sediment record from South-Central Chile: Use of tsunami signatures and 137Cs fallout as temporal markers

Ricardo Barra, Marco Cisternas, Claudia Suarez, Alberto Araneda, Osvaldo Piñones, Peter Popp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


This paper documents the occurrence of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) deposition inferred from a sedimentary record exposed in a salt-marsh trench in South-Central Chile. Sediments were carefully collected every 1 cm from the trench wall. The samples were analyzed for PCBs, HCHs, 137Cs, organic carbon and grain size. The 137Cs fallout and the sedimentary signature left by the 1960 Chilean tsunami were used as temporal markers to estimate the stratigraphic chronology and the sedimentation rates. PCBs were quantified by gas chromatography with electron capture detection (GC-ECD), and positive samples were confirmed by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry detection (GC-MS). Based on these results, PCBs and HCHs deposition over the last 40 years was estimated. No PCBs were detected below the tsunami signature. Total concentrations ranged from undetectable (ND) to 32 ng/g d.w. for PCBs and from undetectable (ND) to 1.29 ng/g d.w. for HCHs. The highest PCB concentrations were found in the upper 7 cm of the core. Even though PCBs were banned in 1982 as electrical fluids in Chile, total estimated PCB fluxes have increased approximately 20 times during the last 40 years: from undetectable values to 102.6 ng/cm2/year, reflecting that PCBs are still in use and being released into the environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)965-972
Number of pages8
Issue number7
StatePublished - May 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Chile
  • HCH
  • PCBs
  • POPs
  • Sediments
  • Temporal trend


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