Partition characteristics of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on soils and sediments

Cary T. Chiou, Susan E. Mcgroddy, Daniel E. Kile

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The partition behavior was determined for three polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), i.e., naphthalene, phenanthrene, and pyrene, from water to a range of soil and sediment samples. The measured partition coefficients of the individual PAHs between soil/sediment organic matter (SOM) and water (i.e., K(oc) values) are relatively invariant either for the 'clean' (uncontaminated) soils or for the clean sediments; however, the mean K(oc) values on the sediments are about twice the values on the soils. This disparity is similar to the earlier observation for other nonpolar solutes and reflects the compositional differences between soil and sediment organic matters. No significant differences in K(oc) are observed between a clean coastal marine sediment and freshwater sediments. The coastal sediments that are significantly impacted by organic contaminants exhibit higher K(oc) values. At given K(ow) values (octanol-water), the PAHs exhibit much higher K(oc) values than other relatively nonpolar solutes (e.g., chlorinated hydrocarbons). This effect is shown to result from the enhanced partition of PAHs to SOM rather than from lower K(ow) values of PAHs at given supercooled liquid solute solubilities in water. The enhanced partition of PAHs over other nonpolar solutes in SOM provides an account of the markedly different correlations between log K(oc) and log K(ow) for PAHs and for other nonpolar solutes. The improved partition of PAHs in SOM stems apparently from the enhanced compatibility of their cohesive energy densities with those of the aromatic components in SOM. The approximate aromatic fraction in soil/sediment organic matter has been assessed by solid-state 13C-NMR spectroscopy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-269
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1998 Jan 15

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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