Trichloromethyl compounds - Natural background concentrations and fates within and below coniferous forests

Christian Nyrop Albers, Poul Erik Hansen, Ole Stig Jacobsen

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Pollution with organochlorines has received major attention due to various environmental effects, but it is now increasingly recognized, that they also take part in biogeochemical cycles and that natural background concentrations exist for several chlorinated compounds. We here report the natural occurrence and cycling of organic compounds with a trichloromethyl moiety in common. The study areas are temperate coniferous forests. Trichloromethyl compounds can be found in all compartments of the forests (groundwater, soil, vegetation and throughfall), but not all compounds in all compartments. The atmospheric input of trichloromethyl compounds is found to be minor, with significant contributions for trichloroacetic acid (TCAA), only.In top soil, where the formation of the compounds is expected to occur, there is a clear positive relationship between chloroform and trichloroacetyl containing compounds. Other positive relations occur, which in combination with chlorination experiments performed in the laboratory, point to the fact that all the trichloromethyl compounds may be formed concurrently in the soil, and their subsequent fates then differ due to different physical, chemical and biological properties. TCAA cannot be detected in soil and groundwater, but sorption and mineralization experiments performed in the laboratory in combination with analyses of vegetation, show that TCAA is probably formed in the top soil and then partly taken up by the vegetation and partly mineralized in the soil. Based on this and previous studies, a conceptual model for the natural cycling of trichloromethyl compounds in forests is proposed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6223-6234
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2010


  • Chloroform
  • Forest
  • Groundwater
  • Natural organochlorine
  • Soil
  • Trichloroacetic acid

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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