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Mussels to determine how much contamination is in the ports
Date:7/30/2008

PV/EHU team have only managed to analyse a few, amongst which is tributyltin (TBT) metal, used in the past for painting the hulls of vessels. "Today TBT is banned but it is highly durable and it can still be found in waters", stated Dr Etxebarria. Organic substances have also been studied, such as polyaromatic carbohydrates (PAH) from ships fuel, the phtalates used in making plastics or the polychloride biphenyls (PCBs) derived from oils. "These last are similar to dioxines and in the past were used in very powerful transformers. They are also prohibited, but are still present in the water", said Dr. Etxebarria.

Biological and chemical sampling

Each year Vigo, Bilbao and Pasajes are visited and simples are taken over two or three days. Five or six zones at each port are analysed, one of which is believed to be clean, i.e. as a control, and the other four or five contaminated. "We place 20 or 30 mussels mounted on plastic supports and inside gauzes, and submerge them at a depth of two metres", explained Dr Etxebarria, "after a certain period, we collect them for analysis of level and type of contamination accumulated".

But using living beings to measure contamination also has its risks. "In some cases the contamination is high and the mussels can die", states Dr Etxebarria. This is why the UPV/EHU team has created a new method for monitoring contaminants: "by using polymeric mountings, we simulate chemically what the mussels do, i.e. accumulate contaminants". Moreover, in this way, it is possible to systemise the sampling.

Evaluation of the tools

The research led by Nestor Etxebarria is to finish in 2009, but they already have some provisional results. "The situation in the port of Bilbao is quite homogenous; we have taken samples in the areas of Getxo, Santurce and the exterior port (Bilbao, in the Basque Country) and the results are similar in each case. On the other hand, in Vigo (Galicia) we detected wide d
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Contact: Garazi Andonegi
garazi@elhuyar.com
34-943-363-040
Elhuyar Fundazioa
Source:Eurekalert

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