Characterisation and Source Attribution of the Semi-volatile Organic Content of Atmospheric Particles and Associated Vapour Phase in Birmingham, UK

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Concentrations of n-alkanes, petroleum biomarkers such as hopanes and steranes, n-alkanoic acids, n-alkanols, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), dicarboxylic acids, and selected oxygenated PAH were separately determined in total suspended particulate matter and associated vapour phase in ambient air in Birmingham, UK. Samples were taken simultaneously at two locations on 24 separate occasions every 1-2 weeks between August 1999 and August 2000. Site A was 10 m from a busy road, 800 m from site B that was located within the "green space" of the University of Birmingham campus. Despite some differences in concentrations of some compounds, data from this study is in line with that reported in London, UK and in California. Differences between Sites A and B in both concentrations and carbon preference indices are consistent with greater traffic inputs at Site A, with some evidence of an appreciable biogenic input of n-alkanols and n-alkanes at the less-traffic influenced and more vegetated Site B. The biogenic input at Site B appears greater in the spring and summer months and suggests that biogenic emissions are appreciable even in British urban areas. Secondary formation mechanisms for some compounds including dicarboxylic acids and oxygenated PAH like fluoren-9-one are indicated by the lack of any significant intersite difference in concentrations. Intersite differences in concentrations provide new evidence that while petroleum biomarkers arise predominantly from local traffic, regional as well as local sources play an important role for the higher molecular weight PAH which exist predominantly in the particle phase. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4985-4991
Number of pages7
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number35
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2003


  • carbon preference indices (CPIs), n-alkanes, petroleum biomarkers, urban airborne particulate matter, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH)

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