Geological Society of London
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Constituents of potential concern for human health risk assessment of petroleum fuel releases

posted on 2016-06-21, 11:43 authored by Richard L. Bowers, Jonathan W. N. Smith

When petroleum-based vehicle fuels are released to the subsurface environment, only a small number of chemical constituents typically account for a large majority of human health risks associated with potential exposures to affected soil, soil gas or groundwater. In other words, the risk ‘footprint’ of most fuel constituents is most often contained within the footprint of key risk-driving constituents of potential concern (COPCs). Therefore, assessment and management of an appropriate set of COPCs can support robust management of all potential risks and eliminate unnecessary chemical analyses and evaluation of constituents that rarely (or never) give rise to unacceptable human health risks. This paper presents an approach for identifying COPCs for petroleum fuel releases, based on internationally adopted human health risk assessment practices and available information on fuel composition and chemical toxicity. COPCs are identified as all constituents that could potentially give rise to unacceptable human health risks, based on theoretical upper-bound exposure estimates for exposure pathways. COPC lists are presented to guide the investigation and evaluation of risks at sites where releases of petrol, diesel, and kerosene/jet fuel have occurred. Such lists are generically applicable and may underpin site-specific evaluation of environmental conditions and associated risks.