Geological and Environmental Engineering | Article | Published 2021-05-26
The concentrations, composition patterns, transport and fate of PAHs in semi-arid and arid soils such as in Central Asia are not well known. Such knowledge isrequired tomanage the risk posed by these toxic chemicals to humans and ecosystems in these regions. To fill this knowledge gap, we determined the concentrations of 21 parent PAHs, 4,5-methylenephenanthrene, 6 alkylated PAHs, and biphenyl in soils from 11 sampling locations (0–10, 10–20 cm soil depths) along a 20-km transect downwind from the Almalyk metal mining and metallurgical industrial complex (Almalyk MMC), Uzbekistan. The concentrations of R29 PAHs and R16 US-EPA PAHs were 41–2670 ng g-1 and 29–1940 ng g-1, respectively. The highest concentration of R29 PAHs occurred in the immediate vicinity of the copper smelting factory of the Almalyk MMC. The concentrations in topsoil decreased substantially to a value of B 200 ng g-1 (considered as background concentration) at C 2 km away from the factory. Low molecular weight PAHs dominated the PAH mixtures at less contaminated sites and high molecular weight PAHs at the most contaminated site. The concentration of R16 US-EPA PAHs did not exceed the precautionary values set by the soil quality guidelines of, e.g., Switzerland and Germany. Similarly, the benzo[a]pyrene equivalent concentration in soils near the Almalyk MMC did not exceed the value set by the Canadian guidelines for the protection of humans from carcinogenic PAHs in soils. Consequently, the cancer risk due to exposure to PAHs in these soils can be considered as low.