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Water Res. 2007 May;41(10):2171-9. Epub 2007 Mar 29.

Release of polycyclic aromatic compounds into a Mediterranean creek (Catalonia, NE Spain) after a forest fire.

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Department of Ecology, Faculty of Biology, University of Barcelona, Diagonal 645, Barcelona, Spain.


Wildfires produce polycyclic aromatic compounds (PACs), among which polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are of environmental concern. After a fire affecting a Mediterranean creek, we studied the distribution and short-term permanence of PACs and of 16 priority PAH pollutants in the aquatic environment. PACs were traced through absorbance and fluorescence emissions and organic carbon concentrations. PAHs were analysed by gas chromatography. High TOC/DOC concentrations and fluorescence/absorbance values reflected abnormal inputs of fire-induced aromatic compounds. Their concentrations decreased gradually but showed sporadic peaks after precipitation. Fifteen months later, values still surpassed background levels. Initially concentrations of individual and total PAH species of the dissolved, particulate and sediment phases were increased. Then they fluctuated with new PAH inputs related with runoff, leaching and soil erosion following precipitation events. All PAH concentrations approached background levels 15 months after the fire, and never reached values of toxicological concern. However, some bioaccumulation may have occurred.

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