Promoting the use of BaP as a marker for PAH exposure in UK soils

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are ubiquitous environmental pollutants that frequently accumulate in soils. There is therefore a requirement to detect their levels in contaminated environments for the purposes of detecting impacts on human health. PAHs are a suite of individual chemicals, and there is an ongoing debate as to the most appropriate method for assessing the risk to humans from them. Two methods predominate: the surrogate marker approach and the toxic equivalency factor. The former assumes that all chemicals in a mixture have an equivalent toxicity. The toxic equivalency approach establishes the potency of individual chemicals relative to the usually most toxic Benzo(a)pyrene. The surrogate marker approach is believed to overestimate risk and the toxic equivalency factor to underestimate risk. When analysing the risks from soils, the surrogate marker approach is preferred due to its simplicity, but there are concerns because of the potential diversity of the PAH profile across the range of impacted soils. Using two independent data sets containing soils from 274 sites across a diverse range of locations, statistical analysis was undertaken to detect the differences in the components of carcinogenic PAH between site locations, for example, rural versus industrial. Following principal components analysis, distinct population differences were not seen between site locations in spite of large differences in the total PAH burden between individual sites. Using all data, highly significant correlations were seen between BaP and other carcinogenic PAH with the majority of r 2 values > 0.8. Correlations with the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) summed groups, i.e., EFSA2, EFSA4 and EFSA8 had even higher correlations (r 2 > 0.95). We therefore conclude that BaP is a suitable surrogate marker to represent mixtures of PAH in soil during risk assessments.

Authors: Bull, Sarah; Collins, Chris ;Full Source: Environmental Geochemistry and Health 2013, 35(1), 101-109 (English) ;