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J Environ Monit. 2012 Dec;14(12):3111-7. doi: 10.1039/c2em30554b. Epub 2012 Oct 23.

Carcinogenic potential of soils contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Xiamen metropolis, China.

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  • 1Key Lab of Urban Environment and Health, Institute of Urban Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xiamen 361021, China.


Xiamen is one of China's most rapidly developing metropolises. The objectives of the present study were: (1) to establish the levels and spatial distribution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in soil across the Xiamen metropolis, (2) to evaluate the extent to which PAH concentrations were elevated in the high urbanization area (HUA) of the island and how these compared with those in the low urbanization area (LUA) of the mainland, and (3) to evaluate the PAH hazard based upon their Carcinogenic Potential (CP), defined as toxicity equivalence of ∑PAHs. Twenty two alternative relative carcinogenic potency schemes were used and compared. Results demonstrated PAH concentrations to be greatly elevated across the entire metropolis. Significantly, the most enriched compounds represented the greatest concern with respect to carcinogenicity. The CP of more than 25% of the industrial samples from the island surpassed the Canadian guidance threshold value (600 μg kg⁻¹) for an excess lifetime cancer risk (ELCR) of 1 in 10⁻⁶. While soil samples from the remaining land uses on the island were all below this threshold, PAH levels in soil were nonetheless elevated (enrichment factors of between 4.1 ± 1.9 and 16.3 ± 12.4 in the HUA, and between 1.3 ± 0.7 and 10.8 ± 4.4 in the LUA). Results relating to agricultural locations on the island indicated 75% of the samples in HUA and 28% of the samples in LUA to be above the USEPA guidance value for BaP (15 μg kg⁻¹). Given the exceptionally high population density on the island there is a need for further research to evaluate multiple pathway PAH exposure risks.

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