Abstract

Evaluation of the bioavailable fractions of organic contaminants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) is extremely important for assessing their risk to the environment. This available fraction, which can be solubilised and/or easily extracted, is believed to be the most accessible for bioaccumulation, biosorption and/or transformation. Sediment organic matter (OM) and clay play an important role in the biodegradation and bioavailability of PAHs. The strong association of PAHs with OM and clay in sediments has a great influence not only on their distribution but also on their long-term environmental impact. This paper investigates correlations between bioavailability and the clay and OM contents in sediments. The results show that OM is a better sorbent for pyrene (chosen as a model PAH) and that increasing the OM content reduces the bioavailable fraction. A mathematical model was used to predict the kinetic desorption, and these results showed that the sediment with the lowest content of OM had an Ffast value of 24%, whereas sediment with 20% OM gave a value of 9%. In the experiments with sediments with different clay contents, no clear dependence between clay and rate constants of the fast desorbing fractions was observed, which can be explained by the numerous possible interactions at the molecular level.

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