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Environ Pollut. 2007 Aug;148(3):739-48. Epub 2007 Mar 21.

Evidence for in situ degradation of mono-and polyaromatic hydrocarbons in alluvial sediments based on microcosm experiments with 13C-labeled contaminants.

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Center for Hydrogeology, University of Neuchâtel, Rue-Emile-Argand 11, Case Postale 158, CH-2009 Neuchâtel, Switzerland.


A microcosm study was conducted to investigate the degradation of mono- and polyaromatic hydrocarbons under in situ-like conditions using alluvial sediments from the site of a former cokery. Benzene, naphthalene, or acenaphthene were added to the sediments as (13)C-labeled substrates. Based on the evolution of (13)C-CO(2) determined by gas chromatography isotope-ratio mass spectrometry (GC-IRMS) it was possible to prove mineralization of the compound of interest in the presence of other unknown organic substances of the sediment material. This new approach was suitable to give evidence for the intrinsic biodegradation of benzene, naphthalene, and acenaphthene under oxic and also under anoxic conditions, due to the high sensitivity and reproducibility of (13)C/(12)C stable isotope analysis. This semi-quantitative method can be used to screen for biodegradation of any slowly degrading, strongly sorbing compound in long-term experiments.

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