Leachates from three municipal landfills in the Göteborg area of western Sweden were characterised in terms of their content of individual organic compounds. Two of the investigated landfills were still in use during the time of this study. The third landfill was closed down in the mid-seventies. More than 200 individual organic compounds and classes of compounds were identified in the leachate with concentrations ranging from less than one up to several hundred μg/L. Among the compounds common to all three landfills were plasticizers (phthalates, benzenesulfonamides), phosphate esters, substituted phenols, chlorinated phenols, phenolic antioxidants and siloxanes as well as the compounds formed during the degradation of organic wastes (dihydro-dioxin, pyrazines and several sulphur-containing odorous volatiles). Dioxanes and dioxolans found in the leachates have not been previously reported. Compounds originated from previously disposed oil contaminated wastes dominate the leachate from an old closed landfill. Its replacement, a new regional landfill has a leachate dominated by alcohols and ethers. This difference is attributed to regional measures in waste management.

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