Assessment of levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the oil from Kuwait oil lakes

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In an attempt to assess the potential impacts resulting from the oil fires started during the Gulf War, levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were determined in Kuwaiti oil lakes. Samples were collected from two oil lakes within each of the four oil fields heavily damaged during the 1991 Gulf War. The oil samples were fractionated and the aromatic fraction analyzed quantitatively by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). In addition, the effect of weathering on the PAH content was monitored over a 21-month period. The results indicated that total PAH contents initially ranged from 52.4 to 425.7 mg/kg in oil lakes. Phenanthrene and chrysene were the major PAHs in most of the samples. Benzo(a)pyrene was detected in all samples in varying amounts (0.46 to 5.3 mg/kg). Total PAH contents were higher, after 21 months, ranging from 59.55 to 616.9 mg/kg. Concentration of benzo(a)pyrene also increased considerably (from 0.16 to 22.2 mg/kg). The hazard potential of these compounds in Kuwait's environment was assessed and indicated that large amounts of the remaining oil will continue to have serious ecological implications unless immediate measures are taken to deal with the problem.