Dioxins, furans and dioxin-like PCBs in sediment samples and suspended particulate matter from the Scheldt estuary and the North Sea Coast: Comparison of CALUX concentration levels in historical and recent samples

T. Vandermarken, Y. Gao, W. Baeyens, M. S. Denison, K. Croes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


Background The Scheldt estuary is historically a highly polluted river system. While several studies have focused on contamination with metals, pesticides, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and marker PolyChlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), no data are available concerning past contamination by dioxin-like compounds. Objectives The objective of this study is to determine spatial and time trends of PolyChlorinated Dibenzo-p-Dioxins and DibenzoFurans (PCDD/Fs) and dioxin-like PCBs (dl-PCBs) in sediment samples and Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) from the Scheldt River basin and the North Sea Coast. Methods Dioxin-like compounds (PCDD/F and dl-PCB fractions) were measured with the CALUX-bioassay. Bioanalytical EQuivalent concentrations (BEQs) and Total Organic Carbon (TOC) content of historical (1982–1984) and recent (2011–2015) sediment and SPM samples from different locations in the coastal area and the estuary, were evaluated. Results A decrease in dioxin-like compound concentrations was found at all stations over time, especially for the PCDD/Fs. Dl-PCBs were relatively low in all samples. The Scheldt mouth and the Antwerp harbor yielded the highest BEQs and levels were higher in SPM than in sediment due to the higher organic carbon content in this fraction. Conclusions Current PCDD/F and dl-PCB levels in the Belgian Coastal Zone and Scheldt estuary are much lower than their levels 30 years ago and pose a relatively low risk to the aquatic system. This is the result of a strong decrease in emissions, however, large local variabilities in sediment concentration levels can still exist because of local variability in sedimentation, erosion rates and in organic carbon content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-116
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2018



  • North Sea
  • PCDD/Fs and dl-PCBs
  • Scheldt
  • Sediment
  • Time trends

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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