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Sci Total Environ. 2019 Nov 1;689:390-397. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.06.389. Epub 2019 Jun 24.

Characterization of polar metabolites and evaluation of their potential toxicity in hydrocarbon contaminated Antarctic soil elutriates.

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School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, UNSW Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.
Australian Antarctic Division, 203 Channel Highway, Kingston, TAS 7050, Australia.
Bioanalytical Mass Spectrometry Facility, UNSW Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.
School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, UNSW Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. Electronic address:


Hydrocarbon polar metabolites are gaining interest from industry and the remediation community due to their ubiquity and uncertainty around their toxicity. In this study, we used headspace-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (HS-GC/MS) to characterize polar metabolites present in elutriates derived from uncontaminated, freshly hydrocarbon contaminated and partially remediated Antarctic soils. Elutriates represent the bioavailable fraction and may be used as a proxy for leachate runoff in environmental risk assessments. Control and contaminated soil elutriates were analysed for the presence of 12 aldehydes and two ketones, which cover a broad spectrum of metabolites, ranging from nC2 - nC12 carbon chain length. A total of nine aldehydes were detected in the soil elutriates. Types of aldehydes present in uncontaminated and hydrocarbon contaminated elutriates were similar. Among the polar metabolites measured in elutriates, acetaldehyde was most abundant in partially remediated soils. Microtox assays were used to determine the potential toxicity of elutriates. In addition, three aldehydes that were present at the highest concentrations in the contaminated and partially remediated soil elutriates (acetaldehyde, octanal and undecanal) were tested as single compounds. Contaminated soil elutriates tested were found to be toxic, with partially remediated elutriates less toxic than freshly contaminated elutriates. None of the three aldehydes tested separately were toxic at levels at which they were measured in elutriates. We infer that high levels of acetaldehyde in partially remediated soil due to hydrocarbon degradation highlight the potential of this metabolite as a useful chemical marker for hydrocarbon degradation under certain conditions. Microtox was sensitive to metabolites and provided a useful initial screening tool for elutriates.


Aldehydes; Antarctic soils; Hydrocarbon contamination; Polar metabolites; Toxicity

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