Chemical and toxicological characterization of sediments along a Colombian shoreline impacted by coal export terminals

Chemosphere. 2015 Nov;138:837-46. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2015.07.062. Epub 2015 Aug 24.


Extraction, transport and utilization of coal spread out coal dust. Nowadays, Colombia is an important producer of this mineral in South America, being the Santa Marta area one of the largest coal exporting ports in the country. The aim of this work was to assess the pollutants levels and toxicity of shoreline sediments from this place. 16 PAHs and 46 elements were measured in nine locations during dry and rainy seasons. HepG2 cells were exposed to 1% sediment extracts and mRNA expression evaluated for selected genes. PAHs levels were greater during the rainy season. The highest ∑PAHs (89.9 ng g(-1)) appeared at a site located around 300 m far from the coast line at close proximity to the area where coal is loaded into cargo vessels for international shipments, being naphthalene the most abundant PAH. At Santa Marta Bay port, ∑PAHs were 62.8 ng g(-1) and 72.8 ng g(-1) for dry and rainy seasons, respectively, with greatest levels for fluoranthene. Based on sediment standards, most stations have poor condition regarding Cr, but moderate contamination on Cu, Pb and Zn. Sediments from the port and coal transport sites, the most polluted by PAHs and metals, induced CYP1A1 and NQO1 during the dry season. Data showed the sediments from this shoreline have bioactive chemicals that determine their toxicological profile.

Keywords: Colombia; HepG2; Metals; PAHs; Santa Marta; Toxicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Coal Mining*
  • Colombia
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry*
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / toxicity*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Rain
  • Seasons
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical