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Fate of phenanthrene and mineralization of its non-extractable residues in an oxic soil

Wang, Yongfeng, Xu, Jun, Shan, Jun, Ma, Yini, Ji, Rong
Environmental pollution 2017 v.224 pp. 377-383
bioavailability, carcinogens, earthworms, geophagia, humin, loam soils, microbial activity, mineralization, phenanthrene, pollutants, risk, soil microorganisms, soil pollution, soil sterilization, toxicity
The fate of organic pollutants in the environment, especially the formation and stability of non-extractable (i.e., bound) residues (NERs) determines their environmental risk. Using ¹⁴C-tracers, we studied the fate of the carcinogen phenanthrene in active or sterilized oxic loamy soil in the absence and presence of the geophagous earthworm Metaphire guillelmi and characterized the NERs derived from phenanthrene. After incubation of ¹⁴C-phenanthrene in active soil for 28 days, 40 ± 3.1% of the initial amount was mineralized and 70.1 ± 1.9% was converted to NERs. Most of the NERs (>92%) were bound to soil humin. Silylation of the humin-bound residues released 45.3 ± 5.3% of these residues, which indicated that they were physically entrapped, whereas the remainder of the residues were chemically bound or biogenic. By contrast, in sterilized soil, only 43.4 ± 12.6% of the phenanthrene was converted to NERs and all of these residues were completely released upon silylation, which underlines the essential role of microbial activity in NER formation. The presence of M. guillelmi in active soil significantly inhibited phenanthrene mineralization (24.4 ± 2.6% mineralized), but NER formation was not significantly affected. Only a small amount of phenanthrene-derived residues (1.9–5.3% of the initial amount) accumulated in the earthworm body. When humin-bound residues were mixed with fresh soil, 33.9% (humin recovered from active soils) and 12.4% (humin recovered from sterilized soils) of the residues were mineralized after 75 days of incubation, respectively, which indicated a high bioavailability of NERs, albeit lower than the initial addition of phenanthrene. Our results indicated that many phenanthrene-derived NERs, especially those physically entrapped, are still bioavailable and may pose a toxic threat to soil organisms.