Society for Environmental Geochemistry and Health

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


Pentachlorophenol (PCP) has been used worldwide since the 1930s as a wood preservative, herbicide, biocide and pesticide. It is a toxic persistent organic pollutant and is a precursor to over 30 degradation products, some of which are more toxic than PCP. POPs are recalcitrant in soils and are therefore of local and global environmental concern due to long range transport as well as bioaccumulation in terrestrial and aquatic organisms and humans. European legislation was introduced during the 1980s which severely limited PCP’s use and since then many countries have introduced national legislation prohibiting it. The introduction of this legislation does not mean that the problems associated with chlorinated pesticides can be forgotten; PCP can still be found in human blood, urine and breast milk. There has been an increased preference for plastic bottle stoppers over the more traditional cork stoppers, mainly due to the presence of PCP degradation products causing “cork taint”. The cork taint problem costs the wine industry millions of dollars annually and in order to combat that, the cork industry took steps to eradicate the use of PCP and chlorophenols from the growing, harvesting and manufacturing processes. Unfortunately, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that chlorophenol contamination of cork slabs is still a concern with early contamination most likely. This NATO Science for Peace project (involving Portugal, Italy, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Kingdom) is the first to target PCP fate in cork forest ecosystems. It aims to identify PCP and its degradation products in soil (UK) and identify soil microbiota that can degrade PCP (Portugal and Italy). It is hoped that using soil biota, the soil can be remediated in-situ as PCP is degraded to less toxic compounds. The results of a Pilot Study using Tunisian soils suggests PCP contamination however to ensure that these results are robust another analytical technique using HPLC has been developed.
Period29 Aug 2009
Event typeConference
LocationDublin, IrelandShow on map


  • Quercus suber
  • environmental behaviour of POPs
  • soil quality