Sorption and desorption behaviour of tributyltin with natural sediments

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Burton, ED, Phillips, IR & Hawker, DW 2004, ‘Sorption and desorption behaviour of tributyltin with natural sediments’, Environmental Science & Technology, vol. 38, no. 24, pp. 6694 – 6700.


Tributyltin (TBT) sorption to four natural sediment samples in artificial seawater was examined under a range of modified pH and salinity conditions. Three of the sediment samples were relatively pristine with regard to TBT contamination, but the fourth was a TBT-contaminated sediment from a commercial marina. Sorption of TBT was described well by linear sorption isotherms, with distribution coefficients ranging from 6.1 to 5210 L/kg depending on the pH and salinity. The sediment organic C content and particle size distribution were important determinants of sorption behavior. The presence of resident TBT in the contaminated marina sediment caused a substantial reduction in further TBT sorption. Desorption of TBT from the marina sediment was described by relatively large observed distribution coefficients ranging from 5100 to 9400 L/kg, suggesting that aging effects may reduce sorption reversibility. Increased artificial seawater salinity generally reduced TBT sorption at pH 4 and 6, but enhanced TBT sorption at pH 8. Regardless of salinity, maximum sorption of TBT was observed at pH 6, which is attributed to an optimal balance between the abundance of cationic TBT+ species and deprotonated surface ligands. Consideration of aqueous TBT speciation along with octanol-water partitioning behavior suggests that hydrophobic partitioning of TBTCl0 to nonpolar organic matter was important for pH < 6, while partitioning of TBTOH0 was important at higher pH.

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