Desorption kinetics for field-aged polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from sediments

Leslie M. Shor, Karl J. Rockne, Gary L. Taghon, L. Y. Young, David S. Kosson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


This study considers desorption kinetics for 12 field-aged polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) desorbing from size- and density-fractionated sediments collected from two locations in the New York/New Jersey Harbor Estuary. Desorption kinetics for PAHs with a log octanol-water partition coefficient greater than 6 were well-described by a one-domain diffusion model that assumes that PAHs are initially uniformly distributed throughout spherical sediment aggregates. PAH hydrophobicity and sediment specific surface area were the parameters most strongly correlated with the magnitude of the observed diffusivity for the one-domain model. For less hydrophobic PAHs, a two-domain desorption model was used also, and the results suggest that a substantial fraction of these field-aged PAHs desorb via a relatively fast macro-mesopore diffusion mechanism. The model-predicted fraction of PAHs in the fast-diffusion regime by compound and sediment was highly correlated with the measured percent PAH desorption in 24 h. The fast-domain diffusivity was 100 times greater than the slow-domain diffusivity, was correlated with both PAH properties and sediment physical and chemical properties, and could be estimated by readily obtainable physical and chemical parameters. In contrast, the slow-domain diffusivity was not significantly correlated with PAH properties. Our results suggest that macro-mesopore diffusion may control mass transport of less-hydrophobic PAHs in estuarine sediments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1535-1544
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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