Phytoscreening for chlorinated solvents using rapid in vitro SPME sampling: Application to urban plume in Verl, Germany

Environmental Science & Technology
By: , and 



Rapid detection and delineation of contaminants in urban settings is critically important in protecting human health. Cores from trees growing above a plume of contaminated groundwater in Verl, Germany, were collected in 1 day, with subsequent analysis and plume mapping completed over several days. Solid-phase microextraction (SPME) analysis was applied to detect tetrachloroethene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE) to below nanogram/liter levels in the transpiration stream of the trees. The tree core concentrations showed a clear areal correlation to the distribution of PCE and TCE in the groundwater. Concentrations in tree cores were lower than the underlying groundwater, as anticipated; however, the tree core water retained the PCE:TCE signature of the underlying groundwater in the urban, populated area. The PCE:TCE ratio can indicate areas of differing degradation activity. Therefore, the phytoscreening analysis was capable not only of mapping the spatial distribution of groundwater contamination but also of delineating zones of potentially differing contaminant sources and degradation. The simplicity of tree coring and the ability to collect a large number of samples in a day with minimal disruption or property damage in the urban setting demonstrates that phytoscreening can be a powerful tool for gaining reconnaissance-level information on groundwater contaminated by chlorinated solvents. The use of SPME decreases the detection level considerably and increases the sensitivity of phytoscreening as an assessment, monitoring, and phytoforensic tool. With rapid, inexpensive, and noninvasive methods of detecting and delineating contaminants underlying homes, as in this case, human health can be better protected through screening of broader areas and with far faster response times.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Phytoscreening for chlorinated solvents using rapid in vitro SPME sampling: Application to urban plume in Verl, Germany
Series title Environmental Science & Technology
DOI 10.1021/es201704v
Volume 45
Issue 19
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher American Chemical Society
Description 7 p.
First page 8276
Last page 8282
Country Germany
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