Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) dispersion and deposition to vegetation and soil following a large scale chemical fire

A A Meharg, J Wright, H Dyke, D Osborn

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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were determined in soil and vegetation following a large scale chemical fire involving 10 000 ton of polypropylene. In comparison with sites outside the plume from the fire, PAH concentrations were elevated in grass shoots (by up to 70-fold) and in soil (by up to 370-fold). The pattern of PAH dispersion under the plume was dependent on the physical-chemical properties of individual PAHs. The lighter, least hydrophobic PAHs were dispersed into the environment at greater distances than heavier, more hydrophobic PAHs. At the most distant sampling point (4.5 km) under the plume, the low molecular weight PAHs were still considerably elevated in vegetation samples compared to control sites. Dispersion appeared to be regulated by the compounds partitioning between the vapour and particulate phase, with dry particulate deposition occurring closer to the fire source than gaseous deposition. For all PAHs, the fire resulted in greater contamination of soils compared to grasses, with the relative ratio of plant/soil contamination decreasing as hydrophobicity increased. (C) 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-36
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • chemical accident
  • grass
  • PAHs
  • plastics fire
  • pollutant deposition
  • soil
  • combustion products
  • UK atmosphere
  • emissions
  • plastics
  • warehouse
  • air

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