Evaluation of the role of black carbon in attenuating bioaccumulation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from field-contaminated sediments


  • Presented at the 23rd Annual Meeting, Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Salt Lake City, UT, USA, November 16–20, 2002.


The significance of black carbon (BC) for the bioavailability of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) was examined by using historically contaminated intact sediment cores in laboratory exposure experiments with the deposit-feeding amphipod Monoporeia affinis. Log values of amphipod biota–sediment accumulation factors (BSAFs) were significantly related to log BC, whereas log BSAFs were related to log octanol–water partition coefficients only in background sediments containing less BC. In the background sediments, the BSAF for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) was 1 to 2 for phenanthrene, with lower values for more hydrophobic PAHs, indicating an increase in nonequilibrium conditions with increasing PAH molecular size. For the near-equilibrated phenanthrene and fluoranthene, higher BSAFs were measured during exposure to background sediments, with BSAF decreasing to <0.1 in contaminated sediments in the Stockholm waterways. In situ caged mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) exhibited field BSAF values (relative to sediment-trap–collected suspended matter) for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) of 0.1 to 0.4, but for PAHs of similar hydrophobicity and molecular size, the field BSAFs were much lower and in the range 0.002 to 0.05. This PAH–PCB dichotomy is consistent with recently reported much stronger binding to diesel soot (a form of BC) for PAHs than for PCBs of equal hydrophobicities. Lower BSAFs for the near-equilibrated PAHs (phenanthrene and fluoranthene) in the urban sediments relative to the background sediments were consistent with the larger presence of BC in the urban sediments. This study provides the first linked BSAF–BC field data that supports a causal relationship between strong soot sorption and reduced bioavailability for PAHs.