Composition and Origins of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in the Mackenzie River and on the Beaufort Sea Shelf

  • Mark B. Yunker
  • Robie W. Macdonald
Keywords: Bottom sediments, PAHs, Marine pollution, Suspended solids, Toxicity, Water pollution, Canadian Beaufort Sea, Mackenzie Delta, N.W.T., Mackenzie River


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) concentrations in suspended particulate samples from the Mackenzie River delta and shelf sediments from the Beaufort Sea are higher than expected for a pristine area. Low concentrations of combustion PAHs indicate that anthropogenic inputs are low. Alkyl PAH distributions indicate that a significant component of the lower molecular weight parent (unsubstituted) PAH fraction is petrogenic. The majority of the high molecular weight PAHs, together with the petrogenic PAHs, have a principal source in the Mackenzie River. Despite the high PAH content, we consider the area still to be pristine. Although PAH concentrations are below the concentrations believed to induce toxic effects on biota, the high natural concentrations may make this region of the Arctic sensitive to additional PAHs from human activities.

Key words: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH), Arctic, baseline, sediment, effects threshold, principal components analysis