Elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls in plants, air, and soils at an E-waste site in Southern China and enantioselective biotransformation of chiral PCBs in plants.
E-waste that contains polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) is moved across national boundaries, often from industrialized countries in the northern hemisphere, where the items were formerly used, to subtropical and tropical regions in southeastern Asia and Africa. As a result, there is a high likelihood that PCBs will be released into the environment from a primary source due to the elevated temperatures encountered in these low-latitude regions. In the present study, PCBs and enantiomer fractions (EFs) of chiral PCBs (PCB 84, 95, 132, 136, 149, and 183) were analyzed in air, eucalyptus leaves, pine needles, and soil at an e-waste site and a rural site in southern China. The concentrations of PCBs at the e-waste site ranged from 7825 to 76330 pg/m(3), 27.5 to 1993 ng/g, and 24.2 to 12045 ng/g in the air (gas plus particle), plant leaves, and soils, respectively. The atmospheric PCB composition profiles in the present study indicated relatively high abundances of penta- and hexa-PCBs, which were different from those previously observed in the air across China. The Clausius-Clapeyron regression analysis indicated that evaporation from local contaminated surfaces constitutes a primary emission source of PCBs in the air at the e-waste site. The chiral signatures of PCBs in the air at the e-waste site were essentially racemic (mean EFs = (0.484 ± 0.022)-(0.499 ± 0.004) in the gaseous phase) except for PCB 84 (0.420 ± 0.050), indicating that racemic sources dominate the PCB emission in the air. PCB chiral signatures in the soils ((0.422 ± 0.038)-(0.515 ± 0.016)) were similar to those in the air except for PCB 95. However, the chiral PCBs in the plants (especially the eucalyptus leaves) had significantly nonracemic residues ((0.368 ± 0.075)-(0.561 ± 0.045)) compared to those in the air and soil. This finding suggests that enantioselective biotransformation of these atropisomeric PCBs was very likely to occur in the plant leaves, possibly due to metabolism by cytochrome P-450 enzymes in leaves. To our knowledge, this is the first report on the enantioselective metabolism of chiral PCBs in plants under field conditions.