Geophysical Research Letters 04/2000; 27(8). DOI: 10.1029/1999GL011326
Hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCHs) are the most abundant pesticides in arctic air and water. We have calculated in situ microbial degradation rates of α- and γ-HCH for the Arctic Ocean using enantiomer ratio (ER) data and concentrations in water at the surface and after it has subducted to depth. The ERs of α-HCH, which provide the first direct evidence of microbial degradation, allow rates to be estimated. The half-lives due to microbial activity for (+)-α-HCH, (−)-α-HCH and γ-HCH (respectively 5.9 ± 1.2, 22.8 ± 4.7 and 18.8 ± 10.1 years) are 3–10 times faster than removal by the only other known breakdown mechanism, hydrolysis (Harner et al., 1999). Microbial degradation is highlighted as an important elimination process in a revised HCH loss budget for the Arctic Ocean, removing 204 t y−1, α-HCH and 23 t y−1, γ-HCH. These tonnages represent 29–37% of the annual HCH removal from the Arctic Ocean.
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"The extent of degradation (e.g., via photolysis, hydrolysis, microorganisms, or free radicals) of contaminants in the atmosphere, in marine waters, or in the nearshore sediment varies with chemical structure. PCBs have been found to degrade in the atmosphere due to reaction with hydroxy radicals (Mandalakis et al. 2003), whereas HCHs have been found to be slowly degraded by microorganisms in ocean water (Harner et al. 2000; Li et al. 2002). "