Chiral pesticides frequently undergo enantioselective degradation in soils. Prior studies to characterize chiral signatures have focused on treated agricultural soils, rather than background (untreated) soils, and tracking signatures in the atmosphere for source apportionment purposes. In this study, we investigated the chiral signatures in 65 background soils collected from different locations across the world. The soils were taken from different ecosystems (e.g., grasslands, forests), and the enantiomeric fractions (EFs) of chiral chlordanes, alpha-hexachlorocyclohexane (alpha-HCH), and o,p`-DDT were determined. Chlordanes in most of the soils showed the usual pattern of enantioselective degradation seen in agricultural soils, depletion of (+)-trans-chlordane (TC) and -cis-chlordane (CC). However, some samples showed opposite enantiomer degradation patterns for TC, CC, and chlordane compound MC5. Correlations were tested between the deviation of EFs from racemic (DEVrac = absolute value of 0.500 EF), the percent soil organic matter (% SOM), annual mean temperature, and the ratio of TC to the more stable compound trans-nonachlor (TN). Significant positive correlations were found between DEVrac and % SOM for TC and CC (p = 0.0022 and 0.0031), but not for the other OCPs. No significant correlations were found between DEVrac and annual mean temperature for any of the OCPs. DEVrac for TC was negatively correlated with the TC/TN ratio, but the regression was driven by two points with high ratios of TC/CC. Removing these two points resulted in a nonsignificant regression. The range of EFs for TC, CC, and alpha-HCH in soils was greater than in ambient air, providing evidence of in situ degradation after atmospheric deposition in some cases. Variable EFs in soil suggest that caution is needed when considering the enantiomer signatures in air as a marker of volatilization of weathered soil-derived organochlorines.
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