Identification of polar transformation products and high molecular weight polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in contaminated soil following bioremediation

Sci Total Environ. 2017 Dec 1;599-600:1099-1107. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.04.190. Epub 2017 May 12.


Bioremediation is a technique commonly used to reduce the toxicity associated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in contaminated soils. However, the efficacy of bioremedial applications is evaluated based on the removal of a subset of parent (or unsubstituted) PAHs and does not incorporate toxic polar transformation products or the more mutagenic high molecular weight PAHs (MW≥302amu or MW302-PAHs). Previously, an effects-directed analysis approach was used to assess the effect of bioremediation on the toxicity of a coal tar-contaminated soil. Increased genotoxicity and developmental toxicity was measured postbioremedation in the more polar soil extract fractions, as compared to the less polar fractions where the targeted PAHs eluted, and could not be attributed to the 88 target PAHs analyzed for (including selected oxygen-containing PAHs). In this study, comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography time-of-flight and liquid chromatography quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry were used to characterize transformation products in the soil extract fractions identified as toxic, previously. Additionally, the degradation of 12MW302-PAHs, picene (MW=278) and coronene (MW=300) were evaluated following bioremediation. Non-targeted analysis resulted in the tentative identification of 10 peaks with increased intensity postbioremediation (based on mass spectral library matching and fragmentation patterns from >5000 candidate peaks in the soil extracts). Several of these compounds contained oxygen, suggesting they would be relatively polar. MW302-PAHs were not significantly degraded during bioremediation, suggesting that the carcinogenic potential associated with these PAHs might remain unchanged. The results of this study suggest that polar transformation products, and MW302-PAHs, should be considered for realistic risk assessment of bioremediated soils.

Keywords: Bioremediation; High molecular weight 302 PAHs; Non-targeted analysis; PAH transformation products; Toxicity.