Using atmospheric measurements of PAH and quinone compounds at roadside and urban background sites to assess sources and reactivity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The sources of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) in various environmental media have commonly been identified based on the ratios of concentrations of selected PAH congeners. These ratios are applicable to various environmental media and distinguish between sources originating from vehicular emissions, petroleum products, petroleum combustion, coal and biomass burning. In this study an evaluation of PAH diagnostic ratios is provided for vapour and particulate phase samples collected simultaneously at well defined roadside and suburban sites in Birmingham, UK. It focuses on 14 PAH and 11 quinone compounds which were measured at both sites to obtain information upon traffic emissions (and subsequently a PAH congener traffic profile) and to evaluate the validity of PAH diagnostic ratios. The results suggest that PAH ratios of the low molecular weight compounds are less stable and more susceptible to atmospheric processing, indicating the importance of determining PAH ratio threshold values based on well defined samples. Quinone to parent-PAH ratios were also examined to assess the potential reactivity of PAH compounds, where the results suggest that significant atmospheric processing occurs during transport, altering the ratios between both sites, in a manner related to the relative reactivity of different PAH congeners.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-35
Number of pages12
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Early online date2 May 2013
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, Quinone, Diagnostic ratio, Reactivity