Heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyls in surface sediments of the Naples harbour (southern Italy)

Chemosphere. 2007 Mar;67(5):998-1009. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2006.10.055. Epub 2006 Dec 8.


The Naples's harbour is one of the largest and most important commercial and tourist port of the Mediterranean basin. It is located on the southeast coast of Italy and receives industrial and municipal wastewaters from the city of Naples. Due to its social and economic impact, a comprehensive assessment of levels and sources of contamination of bottom sediments in this area of the Mediterranean basin is essential to identify potential danger due to mobilization of contaminants produced by managing of the same sediments. In this study, superficial sediments collected from 189 sampling sites were analyzed for grain size, heavy metals (Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb, V, Zn, Co, Sn, Cd, Hg, As, Al and Fe), 16 priority polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and perylene and 38 individual polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners. Compared to the estimated local background, Cu, Zn, Pb, Cd, Sn and Hg show enrichment factors >3 and only Hg evidences a median value higher than the NOAA (effects range - median) guidelines. Principal component analysis allowed us to clearly discriminate two areas mainly affected by heavy metals contamination and influenced by different sources related to industrial, commercial and/or urban activities. Priority PAHs are predominantly represented by three-five-ring compounds with concentrations ranging between 9 and 31774 ng g(-1) and frequently higher than the NOAA ER-M index. A prevalent pyrolitic origin of PAH was assessed on the basis of the relative abundance of the different congeners and selected isomer ratios. The concentrations of PCBs, as sum of the 38 congeners, ranged from 1 to 899 ng g(-1), with a predominance of highly chlorinated (tetra- and penta-chlorobiphenyls) congeners. WHO-TEQ values, calculated for the PCDD-like PCB congeners, suggest a relatively high level of toxicity. Generally, the concentration of PAHs and PCBs were higher near the sites of intense industrial, shipping and/or commercial activities suggesting a direct influence of these sources on the pollutant distribution patterns.

MeSH terms

  • Carbon / analysis
  • Carcinogens / analysis
  • Carcinogens / toxicity
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Geologic Sediments / analysis
  • Italy
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Particle Size
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / analysis*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / toxicity
  • Risk Assessment
  • Seawater
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity


  • Carcinogens
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Carbon
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls