Inferences over the sources and processes affecting polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the atmosphere derived from measured data

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Data concerning atmospheric lifetime and relative source contributions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are fragmentary and contradictory. In this study, two datasets of measurements of atmospheric PAH (sum of particulate and gaseous phases), one from a national network, the other from a more local three-site study, were analysed and used to infer processes affecting PAH in the atmosphere, and their sources. PAH congener profiles measured at urban and rural locations were remarkably similar suggesting that atmospheric decay processes are relatively slow. This allows the use of such profiles to elucidate sources. A spatial analysis of two PAH datasets showed a clear influence of industry and road traffic upon local PAH concentrations. When Principal Component Analysis (PCA) was applied to UK national network data, it showed a clear influence of steel industry emissions and of home heating emissions from coal and oil in Northern Ireland. These sites also showed different winter/summer concentration ratios to the main group of sites. In the data from Birmingham (UK), PCA identified separate factors relating to gasoline and diesel vehicles, as well as the influence of wood combustion on "Bonfire night", and a factor related to home heating emissions which shows up only in the cold season. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2387-2393
Number of pages7
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • Principal Component Analysis (PCA), Receptor modelling, Atmospheric reactivity, Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH)