The disposal of massive quantities of synthetic materials has become a very serious environmental problem around the world. When synthetic polymers are burnt or smolder in air, the combustion products are extremely complex, often consisting of several hundred compounds. In Taiwan, a serious environmental problem was caused by the open air burning of discarded electric cords or cables, sheathed in polyvinyl chloride (PV), in a special waste metal retrieval area. The resulting air pollution was especially severe. To determine mutagenicity, air samples were obtained from the area and the mutagenic compounds were purified by LH-20 column chromatography and semi-preparative HPLC. The active fractions purified at each step were monitored for their mutagenicity using S. typhimurium TA98. The major mutagenic fractions of the airborne particulate samples from the metal retrieval area were found to correspond to those of PVC smog generated from burning waste cables in a laboratory combustion chamber. Moreover, HPLC and fluorescence spectrometry showed 1,8-DNP and 1,6-DNP to be the major mutagenic compounds in the airbone particulate samples from the metal retrieval area.
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