CRC CARE brings together industry, government, science and engineering to prevent, assess and clean up environmental contamination

Log in


CRC CARE Technical Report 10: Health screening levels for petroleum hydrocarbons in soil and groundwater

More information on health screening levels, including extension models downloads, is available here.

CRC CARE has undertaken the development of health-based screening levels (HSLs) for petroleum hydrocarbons to address an identified need for consistent human health risk assessment of petroleum hydrocarbon contamination in Australian conditions. The HSLs represent the best collective view of the available science and application of Australian approaches on selection of health criteria and exposure parameters. The document underwent several international peer reviews by experts in the United States, Canada and Australia. Given the innovative nature of the work, CRC CARE will monitor national and international developments, and publish updates as and when necessary.

The HSLs and the underlying methodology may be used for health risk assessment purposes in the context of the wider site assessment framework for petroleum hydrocarbon contamination provided in the Assessment of Site Contamination NEPM as varied. It should be noted that the HSLs were derived through the consideration of health effects only, with particular emphasis on the vapour exposure pathway. Other considerations such as ecological risk, aesthetics, the presence of free phase product and explosive/fire risk will need to be assessed separately, as they are not addressed by the HSLs.

It is strongly recommended that the HSL technical development document and the associated documents (Part 2: Application document, Part 3: Sensitivity assessment and Part 4: Extension model) are referred to for the key assumptions for the derivation of the HSLs, and for their application and limitations on their use. 

The assessment of contamination using health-based screening criteria and investigation thresholds is a complex matter. While every effort has been made to identify and assess the significant risks to human health associated with petroleum hydrocarbon contamination, it is strongly recommended that assessments are carried out by appropriately qualified and experienced persons (who understand the context, requirements and limitations of such use), in consultation with the relevant jurisdiction.

Many of the assumptions that underlie the HSL values involve policy decisions. It is possible that future reviews may lead to changes in the assumptions and the values of the HSLs. It is, therefore, important to check the CRC CARE website for relevant updates at the time of the assessment.