In order to assess the level of contamination and identify the priority contaminants in the Busan coast, intensive sediment sampling was conducted and persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals were analyzed. The Sediment Quality Index (SQI) was derived based on the contaminant data by comparing with Sediment Quality Guidelines (SQGs) established in Korea, Canada, and Australia/New Zealand. Toxic contaminants were found to be widely distributed across the coast. Among organic contaminants, PAHs showed the highest concentration, followed by butyltins, nonylphenols, PBDEs, DDTs, PCBs, HCHs and CHLs. Heavy metals were also abundantly detected with the highest concentration of Zn followed by Cu > Cr > Pb > Ni > As > Cd > Hg. Compared to organic contaminants, most heavy metals, except for Cu and Hg, were homogeneously distributed along the coast in a good relationship with total organic carbon of sediment particles. In general, the concentrations of organic compounds and heavy metals were highest at the inner part of harbor areas with a tendency to decline from inside areas to the outside, indicating the high loading of pollutants from harbors. A high exceedance for low-SQGs and high-SQGs was found for TBT, p'-DDT, p,p'-DDD, Cu and Zn. The SQI scores calculated from low-SQGs and high-SQGs were in the range of 18-100 and 54-100, respectively. The inner part of Busan Harbor, Dadaepo Harbor, and Gamcheon Harbor were observed as being regions of concern. Overall, TBT, Cu, and p,p'-DDT were the chemicals most frequently exceeding SQGs and influencing SQI scores.
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