The concentration of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and the toxicity to marine bacteria (Vibrio fischeri) were measured for the organic solvent extracts of sea sediments collected from an urban watershed area (Hiroshima Bay) of Japan and compared with the concentrations and toxicity of atmospheric particulate matter (PM). In atmospheric PM, the PAHs concentration was highest in fine particulate matter (FPM) collected during cold seasons. The concentrations of sea sediments were 0.01–0.001 times those of atmospheric PM. 1/EC50 was 1–10 L g−1 PM for atmospheric PM and 0.1–1 L g−1 dry solids for sea sediments. These results imply that toxic substances from atmospheric PM are diluted several tens or hundreds of times in sea sediments. The ratio of the 1/EC50 to PAHs concentration ((1/EC50)/16PAHs) was stable for all sea sediments (0.1–1 L μg−1 16PAHs) and was the same order of magnitude as that of FPM and coarse particulate matter (CPM). The ratio of sediments collected from the west was more similar to that of CPM while that from the east was more similar to FPM, possibly because of hydraulic differences among water bodies. The PAHs concentration pattern analyses (principal component analysis and isomer ratio analysis) were conducted and the results showed that the PAHs pattern in sea sediments was quite different to that of FPM and CPM. Comparison with previously conducted PAHs analyses suggested that biomass burning residues comprised a major portion of these other sources.

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