Managing long-term polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon contaminated soils: a risk-based approach
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- Duan, L., Naidu, R., Thavamani, P. et al. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2015) 22: 8927. doi:10.1007/s11356-013-2270-0
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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a family of contaminants that consist of two or more aromatic rings fused together. Soils contaminated with PAHs pose significant risk to human and ecological health. Over the last 50 years, significant research has been directed towards the cleanup of PAH-contaminated soils to background level. However, this achieved only limited success especially with high molecular weight compounds. Notably, during the last 5–10 years, the approach to remediate PAH-contaminated soils has changed considerably. A risk-based prioritization of remediation interventions has become a valuable step in the management of contaminated sites. The hydrophobicity of PAHs underlines that their phase distribution in soil is strongly influenced by factors such as soil properties and ageing of PAHs within the soil. A risk-based approach recognizes that exposure and environmental effects of PAHs are not directly related to the commonly measured total chemical concentration. Thus, a bioavailability-based assessment using a combination of chemical analysis with toxicological assays and nonexhaustive extraction technique would serve as a valuable tool in risk-based approach for remediation of PAH-contaminated soils. In this paper, the fate and availability of PAHs in contaminated soils and their relevance to risk-based management of long-term contaminated soils are reviewed. This review may serve as guidance for the use of site-specific risk-based management methods.