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Toxicity of petroleum hydrocarbon distillates to soil organisms



Canadian standards for petroleum hydrocarbons in soil are based on four distillate ranges (F1, C6–C10; F2, >C10–C16; F3, >C16–C34; and F4, >C34). Concerns have arisen that the ecological soil contact standards for F3 may be overly conservative. Oil distillates were prepared and characterized, and the toxicity of F3 and two subfractions, F3a (>C16–C23) and F3b (>C23–C34), to earthworms (Eisenia andrei), springtails (Orthonychiurus folsomi), and northern wheatgrass (Elymus lanceolatus), as well as the toxicity of F2 to earthworms, was determined. Clean soil was spiked with individual distillates and measured concentrations were determined for select tests. Results agree with previous studies with these distillates. Reported toxicities of crude and petroleum products to invertebrates were generally comparable to that of F3 and F3a. The decreasing order of toxicity was F3a > F3 > F3b with invertebrates, and F3a > F3b > F3 with plants. The toxicities of F3a and F3b were not sufficiently different to recommend regulating hydrocarbons based on these distillate ranges. The results also suggest that test durations may be insufficient for determining toxicity of higher distillate ranges, and that the selection of species and endpoints may significantly affect interpretation of toxicity test results. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:2685–2694. © 2010 SETAC