Oil pollution in the marine environment is an unavoidable problem due to chronic input from local sources, particularly in urban areas and oil spills. Oil pollution not only causes immediate physical damages to surrounding wildlife but also some components, including higher molecular weight PAHs, can persist in the environment for many years and pose insidious threats to the ecosystem. Long-term and nontargeted monitoring of oil pollution is important. This paper examines the ability of International Pellet Watch (IPW) for initial identification and monitoring of oil pollution by analysing PAHs and hopanes in plastic pellet samples collected globally by volunteers. PAH concentrations with the sum of 28 parent and methyl PAHs vary geographically, ranging from 0.035 to 24.4 µg/g-pellet, in line with the presence or absence of local oil pollution sources, such as oil refineries or oil spill sites. This suggests that PAHs can be used to monitor petroleum pollution in IPW. A colour-coded categorization for PAH concentrations within IPW monitoring also is established to facilitate data presentation and understanding. PAH concentrations are generally higher in Western Europe, especially around the North Sea shorelines, moderate in East Asia and North America, and lower in South East Asia, Oceania, South America, and Africa. Hopane concentrations, with a smaller spatial variation (1.7–101 µg/g-pellet), showed no spatial pattern. This result and the poor correlation between hopanes and PAHs suggest that hopane concentrations alone are unsuited to identify petroleum pollution. However, hopane compositions can be used for fingerprinting sources of oil pollution. Thus, both PAHs and hopanes in IPW allow for low cost, remote monitoring of global oil pollution.
Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 14, 2017
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