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J Environ Qual. 2002 Sep-Oct;31(5):1649-56.

Soil-to-root transfer and translocation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons by vegetables grown on industrial contaminated soils.

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  • 1Laboratoire Sols et Environnement, UMR 1120, ENSAIA-INPL/INRA, 2 avenue de la Forêt de Haye, BP 172, 54 505 Vandoeuvre lès Nancy, France.


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are possible contaminants in some former industrial sites, representing a potential risk to human health if these sites are converted to residential areas. This work was conducted to determine whether PAHs present in contaminated soils are transferred to edible parts of selected vegetables. Soils were sampled from a former gasworks and a private garden, exhibiting a range of PAH concentrations (4 to 53 to 172 to 1263 and 2526 mg PAHs kg-1 of dry soil), and pot experiments were conducted in a greenhouse with lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. var. Reine de Mai), potato (Solanum tuberosum L. var. Belle de Fontenay), and carrot (Daucus carota L. var. Nantaise). At harvest, above- and below ground biomass were determined and the PAH concentrations in soil were measured. In parallel, plates were placed in the greenhouse to estimate the average PAH-dust deposition. Results showed that the presence of PAHs in soils had no detrimental effect on plant growth. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were detected in all plants grown in contaminated soils. However, their concentration was low compared with the initial soil concentration, and the bioconcentration factors were low (i.e., ranging from 13.4 x 10(-4) in potato and carrot pulp to 2 x 10(-2) in potato and carrot leaves). Except in peeled potatoes, the PAH concentration in vegetables increased with the PAH concentration in soils. The PAH distribution profiles in plant tissues and in soils suggested that root uptake was the main pathway for high molecular weight PAHs. On the opposite, lower molecular weight PAHs were probably taken up from the atmosphere through the leaves as well as by roots.

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