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Environ Sci Technol. 2005 May 15;39(10):3688-94.

Sorption to black carbon of organic compounds with varying polarity and planarity.

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  • 1Department of Applied Environmental Science, Stockholm University, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden.


It is becoming increasingly clear that the products of incomplete combustion (soot and charcoal, collectively termed black carbon or BC) can be responsible for as much as 80 - 90% of the total sorption to sediments of aromatic, planar, and hydrophobic compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or planar polychlorinated biphenyls. In the present study, it was investigated whether a nonpolar aliphatic compound (hexachloroethane) and three nonplanar bipolar compounds with different functional groups [free electron pairs but no aromatic ring (butylate) or free electron pairs and an aromatic ring (diuron, atrazine)] would also show strong and nonlinear sorption to a BC-enriched sediment. At a concentration of 1 ng/L, the extent of elevated BC sorption compared to total organic carbon (TOC) sorption increased in the order atrazine < hexachloroethane < butylate < diuron. Rationalization of the differences between the sorbates was attempted in terms of dispersive and steric effects. This study shows that the effects of strong BC sorption apply to a broader range of organic contaminants than previously thought, and the results will aid in a better understanding of BC sorption mechanisms and improved fate modeling of contaminants in the environment.

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