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Seasonal Trends of Atmospheric PAHs in Five Asian Megacities and Source Detection Using Suitable Biomarkers

Category: Air Toxics

Volume: 17 | Issue: 9 | Pages: 2247-2262
DOI: 10.4209/aaqr.2017.05.0163
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Mahua Saha1, Dusmant Maharana1, Rina Kurumisawa2, Hideshige Takada 2, Bee Geok Yeo2, Andrea C. Rodrigues1, Badal Bhattacharya3, Hidetoshi Kumata4, Tomoaki Okuda5, Kebin He6, Yongliang Ma6, Fumiyuki Nakajima7, Mohamad Pauzi Zakaria8, Duong Hoang Giang9, Pham Hung Viet9

  • 1 Chemical Oceanography Division, CSIR-National Institute of Oceanography, Dona Paula, Goa 403004, India
  • 2 Laboratory of Organic Geochemistry, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Fuchu, Tokyo 1838509, Japan
  • 3 Institute of Ecotoxicology and Environmental Sciences, Salt Lake, Kolkata 700097, West Bengal, India
  • 4 Tokyo University of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, Hachioji, Tokyo 1920392, Japan
  • 5 Department of Applied Chemistry, Faculty of Science and Technology, Keio University, Kohoku-ku, Yokohama 2238522, Japan
  • 6 School of Environment, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
  • 7 Department of Urban Engineering, The University of Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 1138656, Japan
  • 8 Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Environmental Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, 43400 UPM, Malaysia
  • 9 Research Center for Environmental Technology and Sustainable Development, Hanoi University of Science, 334 Nguyen Trai, Hanoi, Vietnam


PAH levels increased as Kuala Lumpur ≈ Tokyo < Hanoi << Kolkata << Beijing.
Concentrations of PAHs were higher in winter and dry season, mainly due to heating.
PAHs derived from vehicle exhaust were ubiquitously detected in all cities.
Abundant β-hopanes indicate coal-combustion-derived PAHs in winter in Beijing.
Levoglucosan signified biomass-burning-derived PAHs in dry season in Malaysia.


The most prevalent pollutant, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) is now plenteously distributed in the global atmosphere. We recently quantified 36 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) associated with aerosols (particulate matter: PM) in five Asian cities: Tokyo (Japan), Beijing (China), Kolkata (India), Hanoi (Vietnam), and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). Average atmospheric PAH concentrations (∑12 PAHs-ng m–3) increased in the order of Kuala Lumpur (2.99) ≈ Tokyo (3.95) < Hanoi (7.99) << Kolkata (63.5) << Beijing (142.8). The most abundant PAHs in PM samples in these cities were chrysene, benz[a]anthracene, benzofluoranthenes, benzo[a]pyrene, and benzo[e]pyrene. We used the PAH compositions, especially the relative abundances of alkylated PAHs, and hopanes to determine vehicle exhaust-derived PAHs, and levoglucosan as a tracer for biomass burning, especially from wood combustion. Vehicle exhaust contributed to atmospheric PAHs in all cities, indicated by higher ratios of (C3017α)/total PAHs and MPAHs/PAHs than coal and wood combustion products. Coal combustion contributed also in winter aerosols in Beijing, indicated by higher abundance of β isomers i.e., 17β21β (H)-C30hopane (C3017β) and 17β21β (H)-C29hopane (C2917β) signifying mass use of coal for heating. The ratio of levoglucosan/PAHs was high in Kuala Lumpur and Hanoi, suggesting greater inputs of PAHs from biomass burning there.


Aerosol PM Coal combustion Biomarkers Hopanes Levoglucosan

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