In the Great East Japan Earthquake of 11 March 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and accompanying tsunami struck the Tohoku region of Japan. The tsunami washed away old equipment containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) stored in the region's factories, and these PCBs may have leaked out of their casings into the marine environment. In this study, we evaluate marine PCB contamination by comparing mussels collected before (in 2005) and after (June 2011) the tsunami. PCB contamination levels were significantly elevated in mussel samples collected after the tsunami in June 2011 (3 months after the tsunami). This indicates that PCBs (specifically, formulation KC-400) leaked out of old equipment swept away by the tsunami and accumulated in mussels. PCBs were estimated to have an environmental half-life (EHL) in mussels of 4 months. Our results show that an earthquake and subsequent tsunami can cause elevated PCB contamination in the marine environment.
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