Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can partition from the atmosphere into agricultural crops, contributing to exposure through the dietary pathway. In this study, controlled environmental chamber experiments were conducted to investigate the transfer of PAHs from air into wheat grain, which is a major food staple. A series of PAHs ranging in size from naphthalene to pyrene were maintained at elevated gas-phase concentrations in the chamber housing mature and dry wheat grain both on the plant and with the husk removed. The PAHs did not achieve equilibrium between the air and grain over the 6.5 month monitoring period used in this study. Therefore, PAH uptake under field conditions is expected to be kinetically limited. A clearance study conducted for the grain showed the half-life of clearance was approximately 20 days for all compounds studied. The results suggest that atmospheric contaminants that partition into grain may remain in the grain long enough to contribute to dietary exposure for humans. Mass transfer across the air/grain interface appeared to be limited by grain-side resistance. The grain may act as a multicompartment system with rapid exchange at the surface followed by slower transfer into the grain. A grain/air concentration relationship was derived for the uptake time that is relevant to field conditions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry