Lay summary
The polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are well known persistent organic pollutants which can cause harm to ecosystems and humans. Therefore, maximum acceptable PAH concentrations in soils are legaly defined in many countries.The oxygenated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (OPAHs) are either simultaneously produced with PAHs in combustion processes or are derivatives of PAHs resulting from abiotic or biotic transformation of PAHs in the environment. Although it is known that the OPAHs may be even more toxic than corresponding PAHs, little is known about OPAHs in the environment and no regulations of OPAHs in the environment exist. This is partly related to the difficult chemical analysis of these compounds.Our overall goal is to contribute to improved understanding of OPAHs in the environment, particularly in soil which is likely the largest OPAH reservoir. Specifically, we will (i) improve the analytical approach to these compounds in soil, (ii) broaden the small data base of OPAH concentrations in soils to identify the most abundant OPAHs and investigate into the transport of OPAHs through the soil to the groundwater. Furthermore, we aim to (iii) identify OPAHs sources (i.e. primary combustion vs. secondary transformation sources) and finally (iv) determine to which degree OPAHs are produced by transformation of PAHs in soil.Our work will provide new important information about the sources and risks associated with an ubiquitous class of environmental pollutants. The result will allow for deriving political advice to improve environmental monitoring, avoidance of environmental pollution, and the protection of the population against environmental risks.