The degree of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon contamination of environmental matrices has increased over the last several years due to increase in industrial activities. Interest has surrounded the occurrence and distribution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons for many decades because they pose a serious threat to the health of humans and ecosystems. The importance of the need for sustainable abatement strategies to alleviate contamination therefore cannot be overemphasised, as daily human activities continue to create pollution from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and impact the natural environment. Globally, attempts have been made to design treatment schemes for the remediation and restoration of contaminated sites. Several techniques and technologies have been proposed and tested over time, the majority of which have significant limitations. This has necessitated research into environmentally friendly and cost-effective clean-up techniques. Bioremediation is an appealing option that has been extensively researched and adopted as it has been proven to be relatively cost-effective, environmentally friendly and is publicly accepted. In this review, the physicochemical properties of some priority polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, as well as the pathways and mechanisms through which they enter the soil, river systems, drinking water, groundwater and food are succinctly examined. Their effects on human health, other living organisms, the aquatic ecosystem, as well as soil microbiota are also elucidated. The persistence and bioavailability of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are discussed as well, as they are important factors that influence the rate, efficiency and overall success of remediation. Bioremediation (aerobic and anaerobic), use of biosurfactants and bioreactors, as well as the roles of biofilms in the biological treatment of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are also explored.
Keywords: Bioremediation; Environment; Microorganisms; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).