Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans in River Po sediments

Elena Fattore, Luigi Viganò, Giulio Mariani, Andrea Guzzi, Emilio Benfenati, Roberto Fanelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The River Po is the main Italian river draining one of the most populated and industrialised regions in Italy. As part of a monitoring project to assess environmental quality in the River Po, we measured the concentrations of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) and dibenzofurans (PCDFs) in bottom sediments collected along the whole course of the river, from the spring to the delta, downstream from the confluence of its main tributaries. The aim was to investigate the level of contamination in the main Italian river and the contribution of contaminant loads from the subbasins. Composite sediment samples were collected in summer and winter surveys in low-flow water conditions and analysed by HRGC-HRMS for PCDD and PCDF homologue groups and for the 2,3,7,8-substituted congeners. The spatial trend observed in the Po River for PCDD and PCDF concentrations varied depending on the load of contaminants received from the tributaries and the processes of sedimentation. The sum of PCDD and PCDF concentrations, and the toxic equivalent content, ranged from 121 to 814 and from 1.3 to 13 ng/kg dry weight sediment, respectively. These levels of contamination seem lower than in the sediments of rivers draining highly industrialised areas. The PCDD and PCDF homologue profiles in all the samples were very similar, suggesting a common source of this contamination in the River Po. Principal component analysis suggested that widespread sources, such as urban runoff and domestic wastewaters, are probably the main cause of these levels of PCDDs and PCDFs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)749-754
Number of pages6
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2002


  • Domestic wastewater
  • PCDDs and PCDFs
  • Principal component analysis
  • River Po sediments
  • Urban runoff

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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