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Sampling, monitoring and source tracking of dioxins in the environment of an incinerator in the Netherlands


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Author A Arkenbout and K H Esbensen


In the north of the Netherlands, in the environment of Harlingen, an industrial waste incinerator was installed in 2011. The population in the region is concerned about adverse health effects related to possible emission of dioxins. This study compares the relative merit and reliability of four sampling approaches aimed at quantifying the possible pollution patterns surrounding the incinerator: short-term versus long-term isokinetic flue gas sampling, spatial sampling of grasses and a novel approach developed by the Toxicowatch Foundation, based on local composite sampling of ten eggs from backyard chickens (local area pollution load averaging by accumulating bio-entities). Based on the latter approach results of a new analytical bioassay, DR CALUX®, from 15 locations near Harlingen harbour show distinct above-threshold dioxin levels in the environs of the incinerator. Currently only short-term flue gas sampling is mandated by the authorities; based hereupon, under normal operating conditions, the incinerator appears to be compliant with emission standards. This short-term sampling scheme is seriously flawed, however, in that it only demands one continuous 12-hour sampling period per annum – an extreme grab sampling transgression in the time domain. In starkest possible contrast, significantly elevated dioxins emissions were measured in flue gas during events of unstable combustion conditions by continuous long-term measurements. The dioxin congener patterns from long-term flue gas sampling show similar patterns as the congeners found in backyard chicken eggs and grass, evidence that elevated dioxins in eggs is due to emissions from the incinerator. These results make it mandatory to perform long-term, continuous measurements for all sources where similar high-temperature combustion/emission processes take place. Backyard chicken eggs are a prevalent regional bio-accumulating sample type in rural and agricultural regions, which is relevant to air pollution emission monitoring. There are interesting relationships between this type of sampling bio-sensors and the special bioassay DR CALUX® features, which, although quite outside traditional contexts, never-the-less all can be well understood in the context of the Theory of Sampling. We venture to unravel the complex interactions between correct and incorrect sampling errors and the extraordinary complicated analytical issues involved in monitoring and source tracking using accumulating bio-sensors. The present contribution is but a first foray indicating the general total sample error scope and total analytical error framework needed for this approach.


Arkenbout, A and Esbensen, K H, 2017. Sampling, monitoring
and source tracking of dioxins in the environment of an incinerator in the
Netherlands, in Proceedings Eighth World Conference on Sampling and
, pp 117–124 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).