Fuel oils are complex mixtures of aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons whose exposure potentials are based on the environmental fate of the individual components of the mixtures, particularly n-alkanes, branched alkanes, benzene and alkylbenzenes, naphthalenes, and PAHs.
Fuel oils may enter the water or soil environment as a result of spills during use or transportation or from leaking storage facilities or pipelines. The more volatile components of fuel oils (low molecular weight alkanes) will evaporate from the soil or water and enter the atmosphere where they will be degraded. The higher molecular weight aliphatic components (>C20) of fuel oils have very low water solubility and will not volatilize from soils or surface waters. Consequently, these heavier compounds will remain on the soil or in the water column where they may be adsorbed to particulate organic matter in water or soil and, in water, will settle to the sediment. They will eventually be biodegraded by microorganisms in the soils and sediments. The rate and extent of biodegradation are dependent on the ambient temperature, the presence of a sufficient number of microorganisms capable of metabolizing these hydrocarbons, the amount of aromatic species in a given oil, and the concentration of fuel oil. The aromatic components (benzene and alkylbenzenes) of fuel oils tend to partition into the polar phase of the environment and migrate through the soil to the groundwater. However, these components of fuel oil are also the most biodegradable.
The National Occupational Exposure Survey conducted by NIOSH between 1980 and 1983 estimated that 96,345 employees were exposed to fuel oil no. 2, 1,526 workers were exposed to fuel oil no. 4, and 1,076,518 employees (including 96,255 females) were exposed to kerosene in the workplace. Worker exposure was most likely in industries associated with machinery and special trade contractors. General population exposure is potentially the greatest for persons living near an area where fuel oils have been dumped and have migrated into the groundwater or when fuel oil vapor has penetrated the soil and may enter basements of buildings.
Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, Toxicological Profile for Fuel Oils
CASSEN’s Fuel Oil Fingerprint (FTC-9) analysis package analyses samples collected using thermal desorption tubes on our GC/MS systems. We also include the Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOC) concentration.