Atmospheric carbonation reduces bioaccessibility of PAHs in industrially contaminated soil

S. Humel, J. Schritter, M. Sumetzberger-Hasinger, F. Ottner, Philipp Mayer, A.P. Loibner*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Sorptive Bioaccessibility Extraction (SBE) was used to monitor changes in accessibility of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) during storage of historically contaminated alkaline soil (Σ US EPA 16 + 2 further PAHs: 2452 ± 69 mg kg−1, n = 3). While total concentrations of PAHs were rather stable during storage for 561 days at 4 °C, PAH accessibility declined by 95% due to atmospheric carbonation. The formation of carbonates was evidenced by an increase of inorganic soil carbon and by carbonate coatings on black soil particles (SEM-EDX) that could be dissolved by providing neutral to acidic soil conditions. Subjecting soil (252 days of storage) to biodegradation at pH 7 resulted in a degraded fraction of PAHs equivalent to the accessible PAH fraction of soil as received (PAHs with log Kow <5). The present study addresses important interactions and relationships between carbonation of soil, aging of PAHs in soil and related changes in PAH accessibility. A main finding was the reversibility of this retention mechanism, a changing environment (e.g. reduction of pH below 8) can result in a rise of accessible PAHs and consequently in an increase of exposure and associated risk.
Original languageEnglish
Article number121092
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Soil
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Accessibility
  • Atmospheric carbonation
  • Entrapment

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