Environmental science & technology

High affinity sorption domains in soil are blocked by polar soil organic matter components.

PMID 23206246


Reported correlations between organic contaminant sorption affinity and soil organic matter (OM) structure vary widely, suggesting the importance of OM physical conformation and accessibility. Batch equilibration experiments were used to examine the sorption affinity of bisphenol A, atrazine, and diuron to five soils of varying OM composition. (13)C cross-polarization magic angle spinning NMR spectroscopy was used to characterize the organic carbon chemistry of the soil samples. High sorption by a soil low in O-alkyl components suggested that these structures may block high affinity sorption sites in soil OM. As such, soil samples were subjected to acid hydrolysis, and NMR results showed a decrease in the O-alkyl carbon signal intensity for all soils. Subsequent sorption experiments revealed that organic carbon-normalized distribution coefficient (K(OC)) values increased for all three contaminants. Before hydrolysis, K(OC) values correlated positively with soil aromatic carbon content and negatively with polar soil O-alkyl carbon content. While these correlations were weaker after hydrolysis, the correlation between K(OC) values and soil alkyl carbon content improved. This study suggests that hydrolyzable O-alkyl soil OM components may block high affinity sorption sites and further highlights the importance of OM physical conformation and accessibility with respect to sorption processes.