The enantiomeric composition of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) atropisomers, including PCB 95, PCB 149 and PCB 132, was measured in 11 livers of harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) from the southern North Sea. Non-racemic enantiomeric ratios (ERs) were found in some samples. The value of ERs in three of the four juvenile porpoises was equal or almost equal to one, while the ERs in all adults differed from racemic and ranged from 1.31 to 2.54 for PCB 95; from 1.19 to 1.81 for PCB 149 and from 0.45 to 0.94 for PCB 132. There were no relationships between the total concentration of PCBs and ERs. To understand the phenomena, the relationships between the ER value of individual chiral congener with age, concentration of total PCBs and PCB congener pattern were discussed. A model of intake and elimination kinetics was set up and it was tested using the ratio between concentration of PCB 153 and PCB 101 in the liver samples. There was a clear trend between the enantiomeric ratios and the ratio between PCB 153 and PCB 101. Considering that PCB 153 is one of the most persistent PCB congeners in marine mammals and PCB 101 is a relatively easy metabolised congener, this trend means that the enantiomeric ratio most likely reflects the proportion of the metabolised congener. The exposure period in contaminated conditions has a strong impact on ERs, and it is suggested that ERs in wildlife, combined with information on their anthropometric data, health status, diet and habitat conditions, might be good indicators of pollution in coastal ecosystems.
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