Atmospheric deposition of persistent organic pollutants to the East Rongbuk Glacier in the Himalayas.
ABSTRACT To assess levels and seasonal trends of organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in a high-altitude mountain region, a 2.1m snowpack sample was collected from the East Rongbuk Glacier at 6572 ma.s.l. on Mt. Everest in September 2005. This snowpack covered a full year period from the fall of 2004 to the summer of 2005 and reflected the major meteorology of the monsoon and non-monsoon seasons. The most abundant compounds detected in the snow samples were gamma-hexachlorocyclohexane (gamma-HCH) and alpha-HCH with mean concentrations of 123 pg L(-1) and 92 pg L(-1), respectively. This is the first detection of these compounds in recent snow samples from the Himalayas. Backward air trajectory analysis indicated that the Himalayas could be influenced by the major HCH source regions in both India and China. Among the seven marker PCB congeners (PCB 28, 52, 101, 118, 138, 153, and 180) quantified, PCB 28 and PCB 52 were the only dominant PCB congeners detected, with mean concentrations of 17 pg L(-1) and 6 pg L(-1), respectively. In addition, DDT metabolites, p,p'-DDE and p,p'-DDD were detected in some snow samples and mean concentrations of DDTs were 24 pg L(-1). Seasonal differences were observed for alpha- and gamma-HCH concentrations increasing from the non-monsoon season to the monsoon season. Meanwhile, PCB 28 and HCB showed uniform variations with peak concentrations resulting from an effective scavenging by snowfalls between the monsoon and non-monsoon interval. Compared to other high mountain areas, the levels of POPs deposited into the East Rongbuk Glacier were relatively low, resulting from the highest altitude and remoteness from source regions.