Sediment-pore water partitioning of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) was studied in sediment cores of a dumping area in the western Baltic Sea and compared to a reference site. Freely dissolved concentrations (C(free)) of nine PAHs were measured in sediment samples using solid-phase microextraction (SPME). a cost and time-efficient method with detection limits in the lower ng L(-1) range. Elevated levels Of C(free) were measured at the dumping site, where concentration peaks in the core correlated with the presence of the dumped material, which was conspicuous in its color and consistency. Sediment concentrations of PAHs were three orders of magnitude higher at the dumping site than at the reference site, whereas C(free) was only one order of magnitude greater. Chemical activities of the PAHs in the sediment cores were calculated from C(free) to predict the baseline toxic potential of the contaminant mixture. Finally, gradients in C(free) and chemical activity were used to determine the direction of diffusion within the sediment and to obtain a spatial characterization of the PAH exposure. C(free) and chemical activity are important exposure parameters for the prediction of bioconcentration and toxicity in sediment organisms, and their measurement should be included in risk-assessment and pollution-management strategies. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
- Freely dissolved concentration
- Chemical activity