Anurag Yadav1,2, Sailesh N. Behera2,3  , Pavan K. Nagar1, Mukesh Sharma1

1 Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, PIN: 208016, India
2 Department of Civil Engineering, Shiv Nadar University, Greater Noida, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Uttar Pradesh, PIN: 201314, India
3 Centre for Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Shiv Nadar University, Greater Noida, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Uttar Pradesh, PIN: 201314, India


Received: April 30, 2020
Revised: August 20, 2020
Accepted: August 21, 2020

 Copyright The Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are cited.

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Yadav, A., Behera, S.N., Nagar, P.K. and Sharma, M. (2020). Spatio-seasonal Concentrations, Source Apportionment and Assessment of Associated Human Health Risks of PM2.5-bound Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Delhi, India. Aerosol Air Qual. Res.


  • Winter season was more critical than summer with more levels of PM2.5 and PAHs.
  • Urban industrial-cum-residential site experienced highest levels of PM2.5 and PAHs.
  • Largest contributor to PAHs was vehicles followed by municipal solid waste burning.
  • Biomass burning contributed significantly to ambient total PAHs during winter.
  • Inhabitants close to roads and industrial clusters were more vulnerable to cancer.


This comprehensive field campaign was conducted at six different sampling sites during winter and summer to characterize polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in PM2.5 (particles with aerodynamic diameter ≤ 2.5 µm) in Delhi, the national capital of India and one of the most polluted megacities of the world. The experimental results at city-level showed seasonal variations with higher levels of PM2.5 during winter (356 ± 136 μg/m3) compared to that of summer (268 ± 94 μg/m3). Similarly, the trends in seasonal levels of total PAHs showed higher concentrations during winter (75.1 ± 50.2 ng/m3) than that of summer (10.4 ± 8.5 ng/m3). From spatial distribution, it was revealed that urban industrial-cum-residential site had the highest levels of PM2.5 (430 ± 104 μg/m3), and total PAHs (124.5 ± 70.7 ng/m3) during winter compared to other five sites. Individually, the ambient concentration of benzo[ghi]perylene (winter: 14.3 ± 7.4 ng/m3) was observed with the highest concentration followed by indeno[1,2,3-cd ]pyrene (winter: 13.1 ± 7.3 ng/m3) at most of the sampling sites. Total benzo[a]pyrene equivalent was used in conducting human health risk assessment for possible occurrence of cancer, and the results revealed that the chances of getting cancer during lifetime exposure to particulate PAHs for adults would be 423 per million people over the entire study area (the values of possible risks at six sampling sites) exceeded World Health Organization (WHO) permissible limits. Source apportionment modeling results showed that vehicles as a whole contributed 62% to total mass of PAHs, followed by municipal waste burning as 15%, and biomass burning as 11%. With such trends of source apportionment and health risk assessment, this study concluded that PM2.5-bound PAHs in Delhi can cause serious human health implications, if not controlled with collective initiatives from scientific, policy making and regulatory bodies.

Keywords: Total benzo[a]pyrene equivalent; ILCR: Incremental lifetime cancer risk; CMB8.2: Chemical mass balance model of version 8.2; Biomass burning; Municipal solid waste burning.

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