Effect of Co-existing Heavy Metals and Natural Organic Matter on Sorption/Desorption of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Soil: A Review

Document Type: Original Research Paper


1 Department of Civil Engineering, University of British Columbia, 6250 Applied Science Lane, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z4

2 Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of British Columbia, 2360 East Mall, Vancouver British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z3


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), abundant in mixed contaminant sites, often coexist with heavy metals. The fate and remediation of PAHs depend heavily on the sorption and desorption behavior of these contaminants. The sorption behavior can in turn be highly affected by certain soil components and properties, such as soil organic matter (SOM) and the presence of heavy metals. Through review of the literature focused on research from 2006 to 2018, this paper discusses interactions, challenges, influencing factors and potential synergies in sorption/desorption of mixed PAHs and heavy metal contamination of soil. The presence of either natural organic matter or heavy metals can enhance the sorption capability of fine soil, retarding the PAHs in the solid matrix. The co-existence of SOM and heavy metals has been reported to have synergistic effect on PAHs sorption. Enhanced and surfactant desorption of PAHs are also affected by the presence of both SOM and metals. Remediation techniques for PAHs removal from soil, such as soil washing, soil flushing and electrokinetics, can be affected by the presence of SOM and heavy metals. More detailed studies on the simultaneous effects of soil components and properties on the sorption/desorption of PAHs are needed to enhance the effectiveness of PAHs remediation technologies.


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