Are styrene oligomers in coastal sediments of an industrial area aryl hydrocarbon-receptor agonists?

Effect-directed analysis (EDA) was performed to identify the major aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) agonists in sediments collected from a highly industrialized area (Lake Shihwa, Korea). Great AhR-mediated potencies were found in fractions containing aromatic compounds with log Kow values of 5–8, and relatively great concentrations of styrene oligomers (SOs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were detected in those fractions. Until now, there was little information on occurrences and toxic relative potencies (RePs) of SOs in coastal environments. In the present study; i) distributions and compositions, ii) AhR binding affinities, and iii) contributions of SOs to total AhR-mediated potencies were determined in coastal sediments. Elevated concentrations of 10 SOs were detected in sediments of inland creeks ranging from 61 to 740 ng g−1 dry mass (dm), while lesser concentrations were found in inner (mean = 33 ng g−1 dm) and outer regions (mean = 25 ng g−1 dm) of the lake. Concentrations of PAHs in sediments were comparable to those of SOs. 2,4-diphenyl-1-butene (SD3) was the predominant SO analogue in sediments. SOs and PAHs were accumulated in sediments near sources, and could not be transported to remote regions due to their hydrophobicity. RePs of 3 SOs could be derived, which were 1000- to 10,000-fold less than that of one representative potent AhR active PAH, benzo[a]pyrene. Although concentrations of SOs in sediments were comparable to those of PAHs, the collective contribution of SOs to total AhR-mediated potencies were rather small (<1%), primarily due to their smaller RePs. Overall, the present study provides information on distributions and AhR binding affinities for SOs as baseline data for degradation products of polystyrene plastic in the coastal environment.

Seongjin Hong, Junghyun Lee, Changkeun Lee, Seo Joon Yoon, Seungyeon Jeon, Bong-Oh Kwon, Jong-Hyeon Lee, John P. Giesy, Jong Seong Khim, Environmental Pollution, Volume 213, June 2016, Pages 913–921

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