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.
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
- Atmospheric carbonation