Environ Sci Technol. 2014 Dec 2;48(23):13817-25. doi: 10.1021/es503137b. Epub 2014 Nov 19.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) contamination in the U.S. Great Lakes has long been of concern, but information regarding the current sources, distribution, and fate of PAH contamination is lacking, and very little information exists for the potentially more toxic nitro-derivatives of PAHs (NPAHs). This study uses fugacity, food web, and Monte Carlo models to examine 16 PAHs and five NPAHs in Lake Michigan, and to derive PAH and NPAH emission estimates. Good agreement was found between predicted and measured PAH concentrations in air, but concentrations in water and sediment were generally under-predicted, possibly due to incorrect parameter estimates for degradation rates, discharges to water, or inputs from tributaries. The food web model matched measurements of heavier PAHs (≥5 rings) in lake trout, but lighter PAHs (≤4 rings) were overpredicted, possibly due to overestimates of metabolic half-lives or gut/gill absorption efficiencies. Derived PAH emission rates peaked in the 1950s, and rates now approach those in the mid-19th century. The derived emission rates far exceed those in the source inventories, suggesting the need to reconcile differences and reduce uncertainties. Although additional measurements and physiochemical data are needed to reduce uncertainties and for validation purposes, the models illustrate the behavior of PAHs and NPAHs in Lake Michigan, and they provide useful and potentially diagnostic estimates of emission rates.