Air-water exchange of PAHs and OPAHs at a superfund mega-site

Sci Total Environ. 2017 Dec 15;603-604:676-686. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.01.185. Epub 2017 Apr 1.


Chemical fate is a concern at environmentally contaminated sites, but characterizing that fate can be difficult. Identifying and quantifying the movement of chemicals at the air-water interface are important steps in characterizing chemical fate. Superfund sites are often suspected sources of air pollution due to legacy sediment and water contamination. A quantitative assessment of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and oxygenated PAH (OPAHs) diffusive flux in a river system that contains a Superfund Mega-site, and passes through residential, urban and agricultural land, has not been reported before. Here, passive sampling devices (PSDs) were used to measure 60 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and 22 oxygenated PAH (OPAHs) in air and water. From these concentrations the magnitude and direction of contaminant flux between these two compartments was calculated. The magnitude of PAH flux was greater at sites near or within the Superfund Mega-site than outside of the Superfund Mega-site. The largest net individual PAH deposition at a single site was naphthalene at a rate of -14,200 (±5780) (ng/m2)/day. The estimated one-year total flux of phenanthrene was -7.9×105 (ng/m2)/year. Human health risk associated with inhalation of vapor phase PAHs and dermal exposure to PAHs in water were assessed by calculating benzo[a]pyrene equivalent concentrations. Excess lifetime cancer risk estimates show potential increased risk associated with exposure to PAHs at sites within and in close proximity to the Superfund Mega-site. Specifically, estimated excess lifetime cancer risk associated with dermal exposure and inhalation of PAHs was above 1 in 1 million within the Superfund Mega-site. The predominant depositional flux profile observed in this study suggests that the river water in this Superfund site is largely a sink for airborne PAHs, rather than a source.

Keywords: Benzo[c]fluorene; Benzofluorenone; Environmental transport; Flux assessment; Marine fauna respiratory zone; Passive sampling.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Hazardous Substances / analysis
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Oregon
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Rivers / chemistry*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Hazardous Substances
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical