Distribution and origins of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in riverine, estuarine, and marine sediments in Thailand

Ruchaya Boonyatumanond, Gullaya Wattayakorn, Ayako Togo, Hideshige Takada
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2006, 52 (8): 942-56
To assess the status of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) contamination in coastal and riverine environments in Thailand, we collected 42 surface sediment samples from canals, a river, an estuary, and coastal areas in Thailand in 2003 and analyzed them for PAHs with 3-7 benzene rings by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). The total concentration of PAHs ranged from 6 to 8399 ng/g dry weight. The average total PAH concentrations were 2290+/-2556 ng/g dry weight (n=8) in canals, 263+/-174 (n=11) in the river, 179+/-222 (n=9) in the estuary, and 50+/-56 (n=14) in coastal areas. Comparison of the concentration range with a worldwide survey of sedimentary PAH concentrations ranked PAH contamination in Thai sediments as low to moderate. The ratio of the sum of methylphenanthrenes to phenanthrene (MP/P ratio) allows discrimination of PAH sources between petrogenic (>2) and pyrogenic (<0.5) origins. Sediments from urban canals in Bangkok showed the highest PAH concentrations and petrogenic signatures (MP/P=1.84+/-0.98 [n=6] in canal sediments) with abundant alkylated PAHs, indicating major sources of petrogenic PAHs in the city. To identify the sources of the petrogenic inputs in Thailand, we analyzed triterpanes, biomarkers of petroleum pollution, in the sediment samples and in potential source materials. Hopane profiles were remarkably uniform throughout the nation, suggesting a diffuse single source (e.g. automobiles). Molecular profiles of hopanes and PAHs in sediments from the urban canals were similar to those in street dust, indicating that street dust is one of the major sources of petrogenic PAHs in the urban area. On the other hand, low levels of PAHs (approximately 50 ng/g) with a pyrogenic signature (MP/P ratio approximately 0.5) were widely recorded in remote areas of the coast and the Chao Phraya River. These pyrogenic PAHs may be atmospherically transported throughout the nation. Middle and lower reaches of the Chao Phraya River, the river mouth, and the upper Gulf of Thailand showed intermediate concentrations and profiles of PAHs, indicating mixtures of petrogenic and pyrogenic origins. Perylene was abundant in sediments, representing up to approximately 60% of total identified PAHs. High inputs of soil due to frequent heavy rains could contribute to the high perylene abundance in the sediments. Sedimentary PAH concentrations decreased offshore with a half distance of approximately 10 km in the upper Gulf off the mouth of the Chao Phraya River. This is probably due to active deposition of laterally transported riverborne particles.

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