Partitioning and Physical Chemical Properties of PAHs

  • Donald Mackay
  • Daryl Callcott
Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series (HEC, volume 3 / 3I)


A review is presented of the physical chemical properties of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), including a discussion of how these properties relate to environmental partition coefficients, for example between air and water, and by sorption from water to solid media such as soils. Complete physical chemical data are given for 15 selected PAHs to illustrate the wide range in properties and the systematic dependence of these properties on molecular structure. From available data on rates of reaction under environmental conditions, half lives of these PAHs in a variety of environmental media are suggested. A series of evaluative Level I and III partitioning calculations is described and presented to illustrate how these properties result in differences in environmental partitioning behavior and persistence, especially a systematic variation in sorption to aerosols and to soils and sediments. It is concluded that assessments of the environmental fate of PAHs require accurate physical chemical and reactivity data over a range of environmental temperatures.


Partitioning solubility vapour pressure Henry’s law constant octanol-water partition coefficient octanol-air partition coefficient reaction half life fugacity model persistence sorption 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Baker JE, Eisenreich SJ (1990) Concentrations and fluxes of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyls across the air-water interface of Lake Superior. Environ Sci Technol 24: 342–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Baughman GL, Lassiter RR (1978) In: Cairns J, Dickson KG, Maki AW (Eds) Estimating the hazard of chemical substances to aquatic life. ASTM Tech Pub 657, p 35Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Gotham WE, Bidleman TF (1995) Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyls in air at an urban and rural site near Lake Michigan. Environ Sci Technol 29: 2782–2789CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Finizio A, Mackay D, Bidleman T, Harner T (1996) Octanol-air partition coefficient as a predictor of partitioning of semi-volatile organic chemicals to aerosols. Paper submitted to Atmospheric EnvironmentGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Harner T, Mackay D (1995) Measurement of octanol-air partition coefficients for chlorobenzenes, PCBs and DDT. Environ Sci Technol 29: 1599CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Karickhoff SW (1981) Semi-empirical estimation of sorption of hydrophobic pollutants on natural sediments and soils. Chemosphere 10: 833–849CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Lyman WJ, Reehl WF, Rosenblatt DH (1982) Handbook of chemical property estimation methods. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Mackay D, Paterson S (1982) Fugacity revisited. Environ Sci Technol 16: 654–660Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Mackay D (1982) Correlation of bioconcentration factors. Environ Sci Technol 16: 274–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Mackay D, Paterson S, Schroeder WH (1986) Model describing the rates of transfer processes of organic chemicals between atmosphere and water. Environ Sci Technol 20: 810–816CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Mackay D (1991) Multimedia environmental models: the fugacity approach. Lewis/CRC Press, Boca Raton, FLGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Mackay D, Shiu WY, Ma KC (1992) Illustrated handbook of physical-chemical properties and environmental fate for organic chemicals, vol 2. Lewis/CRC Press, Boca RatonGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    McLachlan MS (1996) Bioaccumulation of hydrophobic chemicals in agricultural food chains. Environ Sci Technol 30: 252–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Muller JF, Hawker DW, Connell DW (1994) Calculation of bioconcentration factors of persistent hydrophobic compounds in the air/vegetation system. Chemosphere 29: 623–640CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Neely WB, Mackay D (1982) In: Dickson KL, Maki AW, Cairns J (eds) Modelling the fate of chemicals in the aquatic environment. Ann Arbor Science, Ann Arbor, p 127Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Neff JM (1985) Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. In: Rand GM, Petrocelli SR (eds) Fundamentals of aquatic toxicology. Hemisphere, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Pankow JF (1991) Common y-intercept and single compound regressions of gas-particle partitioning data vs 1/T. Atmos Environ 25A: 2229–2239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Pankow JF (1994) An absorption model of gas-particle partitioning of organic compounds in the atmosphere. Atmos Environ 28: 185–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Reiderer M (1995) Partitioning and transport of organic chemicals between the atmospheric environment and leaves. In: Trapp S, McFarlane JC (eds) Plant contamination. Lewis, Boca Raton, 153–190Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Thibodeaux LJ (1996) Environmental chemodynamics. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Valsaraj KT (1995) Elements of environmental engineering: thermodynamics and kinetics. Lewis/CRC Press, Boca Raton, FLGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Yalkowsky SH (1979) Estimation of entropies of fusion of organic compounds. Ind Eng Chem Fundam 18: 108–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Yamasaki H, Kuwata K, Miyamoto H (1982) Effects of ambient temperature on aspects of airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Environ Sci Technol 16: 4, 189–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald Mackay
    • 1
  • Daryl Callcott
    • 1
  1. 1.Environmental and Resource StudiesTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada

Personalised recommendations