The role of preferential biodegradation in the reduction of cancer risk caused by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) has been studied. A consortium of microorganisms isolated from aged oil refinery exposed soil was used to degrade 13 PAHs content extracted from an urban traffic site soil. The biodegradation arranged in a batch process with a mineral salt broth, where PAHs were the sole carbon source. 70.46% biodegradation of the total PAHs occurred in an incubation period of 25 days. Sequential or preferential biodegradation took place as the lower molecular weight (LMW) PAHs were more prone to biodegradation than that of the higher molecular weight (HMW) PAHs. Microorganisms from the isolated consortia preferred the simpler carbon sources first. The relatively higher carcinogenicity of the HMW PAHs than that of the LMW PAHs leads to only 40.26% decrement in cancer risk. Initial cancer risk for children was 1.60E-05, which was decreased to 9.47E-06, whereas, for the adults, the risk decreased to 1.01E-05 from an initial value of 1.71E-05. The relative skin adherence factor for soil (AF) turned out to be the most influential parameter with 54.2% contributions to variance in total cancer risk followed by the exposure duration (ED) for children. For the adults, most contributions to the variance in total cancer risk were 58.5% by ED and followed by AF.
Keywords: Biodegradation; Cancer risk analysis; Monte Carlo simulation; PAHs.