Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Committee Chair(s)

William Doucette


William Doucette


Ryan Dupont


Bruce Bugbee


David Stevens


Laurie McNeill


Determining the root uptake of xenobiotic organic chemicals into plants is critical for assessing the human and ecological health risks associated with the consumption of plants growing in contaminated environments. Root uptake of xenobiotic organics occurs passively in conjunction with transpiration and the transport from root to shoot is ultimately controlled by passage through one or more lipid root membranes. The transpiration stream concentration factor (TSCF), the ratio between the concentration of a chemical in the xylem to that in the solution used by the roots, is used to describe the relative ability of an organic chemical to be passively transported from root to shoot. However, relatively few experimental TSCF values exist due to the cost and the lack of regulatory requirements for generating such data. Where literature data exist for chemicals having more than one TSCF, the variability is often large due to the lack of standardized methods and difficulty in accounting for metabolism and volatilization losses occurring during the uptake experiments. Because of the scarcity of experimental values, estimated TSCFs are often used. Widely cited estimation approaches relating TSCF and the logarithm octanol/water partition coefficient (log KOW) suggest that only compounds that are in the intermediate lipophilicity range (log KOW = 2) will be taken up and translocated by plants. However, recent data for highly water soluble compounds such as 1,4-dioxane, MTBE, and sulfolane suggest that these estimation techniques should be critically reviewed. To re-evaluate the relationship between TSCF and log Kow, TSCFs were measured for 25 organic chemicals ranging in log KOW from -0.8 to 5 using an improved pressure chamber technique. The technique provides an approach for efficiently generating consistent plant uptake data. By using this data, a new mass transfer model relating TSCF and log KOW was developed that indicates that neutral, polar organic compounds are most likely taken up by plant roots and translocated to shoot tissue. An extensive review of literature TSCF studies supports the updated model.