Unexpected Dioxin Formation During Digestion of Soil with Oxidizing Acids
Wenjing Xie, Wenjuan Li, Pu Wang, Yanfen Hao, Bolei Chen, Ligang Hu, Thanh Wang, Qinghua Zhang, Yong Liang, and Guibin Jiang
Dioxins, such as polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs), are among the most toxic unintentionally produced persistent organic pollutants, and their emission is of great concern. Herein, we discovered abundant dioxin formation in soil and various organic carbon-containing matrices after digestion with aqua regia. Σ17PCDD/Fs concentrations were in the range of 66.6–142,834 pg/g dw (5.6–17,021 pg WHO2005-TEQ/g dw) in 19 soil samples after digestion with aqua regia for 6 h. Σ17PCDD/Fs concentration was significantly and positively correlated with soil organic carbon content (R2 = 0.89; p < 0.01). Compared with cellulose and lignin, humic acid served as an important organic matter component that was converted to PCDD/Fs during soil digestion. Strong oxidation and production of reactive chlorine by aqua regia may be the key factors in the formation of PCDD/Fs. The yearly emission of PCDD/Fs due to digestion with strong acids by the inspection and testing industry was estimated to be 83.8 g TEQ in China in 2021 based on the highest level, which was ∼0.9% of the total dioxin inventory in China. Great attention should be paid to unexpected dioxin formation during digestion processes considering the potential risk of release from laboratories and enterprises.