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Bioavailability and Bioaccessibility of Hydrophobic Organic Contaminants in Soil and Associated Desorption-Based Measurements

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Many publications on contaminant bioavailability in soils often state that the use of total contaminant concentrations in risk assessment is an overly conservative approach. Such conservatism makes traditional risk assessment approaches and contaminated land decision-making expensive. The risk-based approach to contaminated land management strives to identify and manage the potential risks of significant harm being caused to humans and ecological receptors, following exposure to contaminated land. Risk-based approaches are more cost-effective than the traditional approaches from the perspective of contaminated land management. Contaminant bioavailability or bioaccessibility is one of the critical concepts that underpins risk-based approaches to contaminated land management. Bioavailability describes the fraction of the total contaminant concentration that desorbs from soil and is immediately available to cause harm to a living organism, after passing through the organism’s membrane. Bioaccessibility describes what is available and potentially available under natural environmental conditions and during realistic timeframes. The reliable measurements of either contaminant bioavailability or bioaccessibility is therefore critical; in this regard, a thorough understanding of contaminant sequestration and desorption behaviour is required. This chapter discusses the fate of HOCs in soils, bioavailability and bioaccessibility of organic contaminants and their associated desorption-based measurements.