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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2011

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Soil and Sediment from Industrial, Residential, and Agricultural Areas in Central South Africa: An Initial Assessment

Niewoudt, Claudine; Piters, Rialet; Quinn, Laura; Kylin, Henrik; Borgen, Anders; Bouwman, Henk


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are of global concern due to their ubiquitous presence, toxicity, and carcinogenicity. No data on PAHs in soils from South Africa have been published, even though it has the largest economy and industrial base in Africa. During this initial assessment, the levels of PAHs were determined in soils and sediments collected from central South Africa, specifically targeting industrial, residential, and agricultural areas. Analysis was performed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). The total concentration of PAHs (sigma t-PAH) ranged between 44 and 39,000ng/g, dw and the concentration of carcinogenic PAHs (sigma c-PAH) ranged between 19 and 19,000 ng/g, dw. Pyrogenic processes were the most likely sources, with minimal petrogenic contributions. PAH levels were in the same range as levels reported from other countries, and the majority of the sites did not exceed Canadian environmental quality guidelines. Based on assumptions for dermal contact and ingestion of PAH-contaminated soil, we provisionally calculated only a small increase in cancer risk, but additional PAH inhalation could add considerably to this risk. Our data indicates a need for more analysis in industrial and residential areas, and should include air.


Vaal River; Orange River; cancer risk; pyrogenic origin; petrogenic origin

Published in

Soil and Sediment Contamination
2011, volume: 20, number: 2, pages: 188-204

Authors' information

Niewoudt, Claudine
Piters, Rialet
Quinn, Laura
Kylin, Henrik
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment
Borgen, Anders
Bouwman, Henk

Associated SLU-program

Non-toxic environment

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG11 Sustainable cities and communities
SDG3 Good health and well-being

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

Publication Identifiers


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