Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon contamination in soils of San Mateo Ixtatán, Guatemala: Occurrence, sources, and health risk assessment

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Exposure to high concentrations of carcinogenic pollutants in soils and sediments can result in increased health risks. Determining the levels and sources of contamination in developing communities is important for helping to reduce pollution and mitigate the risk of exposure. In the Mayan community of San Mateo Ixtatán, Guatemala, 24 samples of topsoil from urban, peri-urban, and agricultural sites and six samples of river sediment were collected and analyzed for 17 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The sum of the concentrations of these PAHs at the urban and periurban sites ranged from 460 to 3251 μg kg-1 (mean, 1401 μg kg-1), whereas at agricultural sites the range was 350 to 2087 μg kg-1 (mean, 1038 μg kg-1). Analysis to identify and apportion the source showed that the PAHs emitted from wood stoves contributed 71 and 76% of the total PAHs in urban and agricultural areas soils, respectively. The calculated incremental lifetime cancer risk due to the ingestion of soil, dermal contact, and dietary intake through corn consumption was greater than the acceptable level of 10-6 established by the USEPA. Our findings suggest that the residents of rural communities can be at increased cancer risk despite little or no industrial activity in the local area. Alternate domestic fuel sources should be considered to reduce the health risk in local communities.

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Journal of Environmental Quality