Source apportionment of polychlorinated biphenyls in chicago air from 1996 to 2007

Lisa A. Rodenburg, Qingyu Meng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


While the overall atmospheric polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) levels in many urban areas are declining, it is not clear whether this decline is due to control strategies or merely due to natural attenuation. To investigate this issue, Positive Matrix Factorization (PMF) was used to identify the dominant sources of gas-phase PCBs in the atmosphere of Chicago, IL using a data set collected from 1996 to 2007 by the Integrated Atmospheric Deposition Network (IADN). Both the older PMF2 software and the newer EPA-sponsored PMF 3.0 software were employed. Both models resolved 5 factors, but they yielded somewhat different results in terms of the congener patterns of the factors and their temporal variation. The PMF2 software resolved factors that better resembled the original Aroclor formulations. While it is possible to apply an exponential decay model to this data set and derive statistically significant rate constants that indicate that ΣPCBs and some of the resolved factors are declining in Chicago air, examining plots of the 365-day moving average concentrations shows that they do not decrease in a fashion consistent with exponential decay. Instead, they display periods of decline as well as periods of increase. Thus an exponential decay model is not appropriate, and long-term time trends identified from this 12-year data set cannot be used to predict the future trends in PCB concentrations in the air of Chicago. Two of the five resolved factors resemble low MW Aroclors, and declined from 1996 to 2007. The other three factors, which represent the majority of the mass in the data set, are either not declining or actually increasing over time. Thus past efforts to eliminate PCBs from the Great Lakes ecosystem have been only marginally effective, if at all. Additional effort is needed to identify and eliminate atmospheric PCB sources in Chicago.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3774-3780
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 16 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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