Capacitor oil samples (PCBs > 90%wt) were treated in a bench scale experiment to investigate the destruction of PCBs during chemical destruction processes (a catalytic hydrodechlorination treatment with palladium carbon and additional treatment with potassium tert-butyloxide). Using those results, this study confirmed the decrease of PCBs and other undesirable dioxin-like compounds such as PCDD/Fs in treated samples during the treatment. Dioxin-responsive chemical-activated luciferase expression (DR CALUX®) AhR reporter gene bioassay was used to evaluate dioxin-like activity in the samples. During the treatment, the efficiency for PCB capacitor oil was around 99.99% or more in WHO-TEQ and CALUX-TEQ, whereas the sum of PCBs was reduced at a resulting efficiency of >99.9999%. In this study, a new cleanup procedure for separating PCBs from the mineral oil matrix was also developed for DR CALUX. The procedure consists of dimethylsulphoxide partitioning followed by silica gel-44% sulphuric acid reflux treatment and activated carbon chromatography. With the cleanup, CALUX-TEQ values were in good agreement with WHO-TEQ values and were as much as 3.3 times higher than WHO-TEQs for untreated/treated PCB-containing insulating oil samples. The DR CALUX results of mineral oil samples containing various PCB concentrations of 0.5–50 mg/kg (corresponding WHO-TEQs: 0.012–1.2 μg-TEQ/g) also correlated well with WHO-TEQs (CALUX-TEQ/WHO-TEQ ratio =1.0–3.0), which was consistent with the theoretical quantification limit of the CALUX. These results supported the validity of the proposed clean-up method.

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