Due to their exceptionally low water solubilities polychlorinated dibenzodioxins and furans (PCDD/Fs) are strongly and extensively bound to soil and sediment particles. Sorbed PCDD/Fs are distributed among the primary component geosorbents, namely char-like carbonaceous materials, amorphous organic matter, and clays, and the fractional distribution among these geosorbents is hypothesized to change with the total PCDD/F load. Since PCDD/Fs are also highly resistant to decomposition, sorption is a primary determinant of their environmental fates and impacts. Importantly, sorption to soil/sediment particles may modify the bioavailabilities and toxicities of PCDD/Fs in unknown ways, and bioavailability is expected to be geosorbent-specific. The major goals are: (1) to advance fundamental understanding of PCDD/F sorption by these dominant geosorbents comprising soils/sediments, especially at very low environmentally relevant (pptppb) concentrations where carbonaceous materials (e.g. chars) are hypothesized to control soil-water distribution, (2) to determine the differential bioaccessibilities/bioavailabilities of PCDD/Fs sorbed to each key geosorbent type using physiologically based extraction fluid, and mammalian models, (3) to test the hypothesis that mechanistic knowledge of sorption/desorption reactions for PCDD/Fs with individual component geosorbents can be extrapolated to predict site-specific bioaccessibilites and bioavailabilities for contaminated whole soils/sediments, and (4) to evaluate the clay-facilitated formation of PCDD/Fs, and corresponding predioxins/furans, from precursor chlorophenols, and elucidate the underlying mechanistic basis for these reactions. Estimates of PCDD/F bioavailability in soils/sediments are few and inconsistent, hence most risk assessment models for exposure to environmental PCDD/Fs make generic assumptions of 100% bioavailability, irrespective of soil/sediment characteristics. The results of the proposed research will provide the basis for (1) a more mechanistic understanding of the relationship between soil/sediment composition and the human and ecological risks posed by a given total PCDD/F load in soil/sediment, and (2) understanding the prevalence of clay-facilitated PCDD/F formation as an on-going in-situ process leading to unexpected PCDD/F accumulations that threaten human health. Further, it would be of great economic and environmental benefit if certain chars, such as those produced as intentional by-products of biofuels/Csequestration technologies, were shown to be effective as soil/sediment amendments to diminish bioavailability of PCDD/Fs.
Current risk assessment models typically assume 100% bioavailability of PCDD/Fs in soils. The ability to assign scientifically informed values for PCDD/F bioavailability, that account for soil composition, represents a major advance in understanding the exposure risk of PCDD/F contaminated soils/sediments. Formulating safe and realistic remediation endpoints based on available contaminant concentrations instead of total ones allows limited remediation funds to be better prioritized and needless remediation attempts avoided.
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