Environmental risk management of contamination of marine biota by hydrocarbons specifically those arising following an oil spill.
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Marine pollution resulting from oil spillage has received much attention mostly due to the damaging effects it has on fisheries and aquacultures. One component of oil that is widely studied due to its toxic and carcinogenic properties is the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The physical and chemical properties of these compounds control their distribution into the various phases of the environment. The rates of elimination of these compounds from impacted organisms were investigated in laboratory and field experiments using selected marine organisms (Mytilus edulis and Salmo salar). The elimination of individual PAH compounds followed first order kinetics. Elimination rate varied among compounds and generally decreased with increase in molecular weight and degree of alkylation. Elimination rate constants (k2) and biological half-lives (t1/2) evaluated from chronically exposed mussels (collected from Aberdeen harbour) in separate laboratory and field studies were comparable but differed from those evaluated from acutely exposed mussels. Shorter t1/2 were obtained from acutely exposed mussels. The t1/2 ranged between 0.5- 22 d (acute exposure) and 3.8- 31.5 d (chronic exposure).The longer apparent t1/2 calculated for the chronically impacted mussels was attributed to the retention of the compounds in a stable compartment due to long period of exposure that limited exchange with the surrounding water. Contrary to expectation, t1/2 for similar compounds was higher in salmon than in mussels. The reason for this was unknown but attributed to the route of elimination. A good correlation (r2 > 0.72) was found between PAHs tissue concentration and taint intensity in salmon. Comparison of the results from this study with literature data showed that tank water replacement time and exposure duration affects rate of PAHs elimination. The data generated in this study and some of the reviewed studies will find application in different oil spill scenarios. The usefulness and limitations of the n-alkanes profile, PAH distribution and concentration ratios, and specific biomarker ratios from organisms in oil spill source identification was also demonstrated.