Effect of soil pH and organic matter on the adsorption and desorption of pentachlorophenol

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2018 Feb;25(6):5269-5279. doi: 10.1007/s11356-017-9822-7. Epub 2017 Aug 12.


Various properties of soil affect the partition of organic contaminants within, and conversely, the properties of the organic contaminants also directly affect their partition behavior in soil. Therefore, understanding the effects of various properties of soil on the partition of organic contaminants favors subsequent assessment and provides soil remediation methods for policymakers. This study selected pentachlorophenol (PCP), a common hydrophobic ionizable organic compound in contaminated sites worldwide, as the target contaminant. The effects of pH, organic matter, and the combination of both, on PCP adsorption/desorption behavior in soil were investigated. Phosphoric acid and potassium hydroxide were used as buffer solutions to modify the soil pH by the batch and column extraction methods. A common retail organic fertilizer and fulvic acid were selected as additives to manipulate the soil organic content. Modifying the pH of the soil samples revealed that acidic soil exhibited a greater PCP adsorption rate than alkaline soil. The amount of PCP desorption increased regardless of pH of the in situ contaminated soil. The adsorption of PCP increased with increasing amount of organic additive. However, addition of fulvic acid yielded different results compared to the addition of organic fertilizer. Specifically, the organic fertilizer could not compete with the in situ contaminated soil in PCP adsorption, whereas fulvic acids increased the PCP dissolution to facilitate adsorbing contaminant adsorption. The combined effect of pH modification and organic matter addition provides additional PCP adsorption sites; therefore, adding the organic fertilizer to decrease the soil pH elevated the PCP adsorption rates of the laterite, alluvial, and in situ contaminated soil samples. The study results revealed that both pH and organic matter content are crucial to PCP adsorption/desorption in soil. Therefore, the effects of soil pH and organic matter should be considered in facilitating PCP treatment for soil remediation.

Keywords: Adsorption/desorption; Fulvic acids; Organic fertilizer; Pentachlorophenol (PCP); pH.

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Environmental Restoration and Remediation
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration*
  • Organic Chemicals / analysis
  • Organic Chemicals / chemistry*
  • Pentachlorophenol / analysis
  • Pentachlorophenol / chemistry*
  • Soil / chemistry*
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis
  • Soil Pollutants / chemistry*


  • Organic Chemicals
  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Pentachlorophenol