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The polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon content and mutagenicity of the residue from cane burning and vehicle emissions.

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Polycyclic (or polynuclear) aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are environmental pollutants produced during the incomplete combustion of organic matter. Since many of these compounds have been shown to be mutagenic and/or carcinogenic, an investigation was initiated into determining the PAH content and mutagenicity of the ash that remains after sugar cane crop burning, and the soot deposited on toll booths by vehicle exhaust emissions. Due to the large amount of sugar cane farming in the Natal coastal region and that the favoured method of disposing unwanted leafy trash is crop burning, concern was expressed as to the nature of the residue that is formed. PAHs have been identified in the residues from combusted wood and straw and, due to their intrinsic similarity to sugar cane, it was considered that the burning of sugar cane could generate PAHs. It is well documented that vehicle exhaust emissions exhibit mutagenic properties and PAHs have been identified as the major contributors of this observed mutagenicity. Since a toll plaza is an area of high traffic density, it was considered to be an ideal location for an investigation into the build-up of particles emitted by the passing vehicles, and to study to what extent the operators are exposed to harmful compounds. In addition, this sample acted as a control, since the detection of PAHs and mutagenic activity in the soot would be an indication that the correct experimental techniques were being employed. Samples were collected on site. The sugar cane ash was collected off a field immediately after burning had taken place, and the soot was collected either by scraping the toll booth walls and surrounding areas or by wiping the surfaces with cotton wool swabs. The organic portion of the samples was separated from the inorganic and carbonaceous substances by extraction into a suitable solvent; the use of both acetone and dichloromethane was investigated. The extracts were divided into two portions - one was used for the analysis of PAHs and the other for determining mutagenic activity. Analysis for PAHs involved subjecting the extracts to a sample clean-up routine and the use of a number of analytical techniques to characterise the components. The mutagenic properties of the samples were investigated by means of two bacterial mutagenicity tests: the Salmonella typhimurium assay (the Ames test) and a new commercially available test kit, the SOS Chromotest. A number of PARs were identified in the extracts by means of reverse phase high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with both ultraviolet and fluorescence detection, the latter being the more sensitive method. Mutagenic activity was detected for both samples in the Ames test and for the toll booth soot in the SOS Chromotest, and this observed mutagenicity was attributed to the presence of the PAHs.


Thesis (M.Sc.)-University of Natal, Durban, 1992.


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons., Automobiles--Motors--Exhaust gas., Mutagenicity testing., Theses--Chemistry., Prescribed burning--Environmental aspects., Polutants--toxicology., Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons--Carcinogenicity.