Radiocarbon content of synthetic and natural semi-volatile halogenated organic compounds

TitleRadiocarbon content of synthetic and natural semi-volatile halogenated organic compounds
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsReddy, CM, Xu, L, Eglinton, TI, Boon, JP, Faulkner, DJ
JournalEnviron Pollut
Date Published2002
ISBN Number0269-7491 (Print)0269-7491 (Linking)
KeywordsAnimals, Carbon Radioisotopes/*analysis, Environmental Pollutants/*analysis, Hydrocarbons, Halogenated/chemical synthesis/*chemistry, Insecticides/chemistry, Polychlorinated Biphenyls/chemistry, Porifera/*chemistry, Toxaphene/chemistry

Some halogenated organic compounds, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), have been suggested to have natural sources but separating these compounds from their commercially synthesized counterparts is difficult. Molecular-level 14C analysis may be beneficial since most synthetic compounds are manufactured from petrochemicals (14C-free) and natural compounds should have "modern" or "contemporary" 14C levels. As a baseline study, we measured, for the first time, the 14C abundance in commercial PCB and PBDE mixtures, a number of organochlorine pesticides, as well as one natural product 2-(3',5'-dibromo-2'-methoxyphenoxy)-3,5-dibromoanisole. The latter compound was isolated from a marine sponge and is similar in structure to a PBDE. All of the synthetic compounds were 14C-free except for the pesticide toxaphene. which had a modern 14C abundance, as did the brominated natural compound. The result for toxaphene was not surprising since it was commercially synthesized by the chlorination of camphene derived from pine trees. These results suggest that measuring the 14C content of halogenated organic compounds may be quite useful in establishing whether organic compounds encountered in the environment have natural or synthetic origins (or both) provided that any synthetic counterparts derive from petrochemical feedstock.