Yu-Chieh Ting  1, Chun-Hung Ku2, Yu-Xuan Zou1, Kai-Hsien Chi3, Jhy-Charm Soo4, Chin-Yu Hsu5,6, Yu-Cheng Chen  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.2,7,8

1 Graduate Institute of Environmental Engineering, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
2 National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Health Research Institutes, Miaoli, Taiwan
3 Institute of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, National Yang-Ming University, Tainan City, Taiwan
4 Environmental Health Sciences Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia, USA
5 Department of Safety, Health and Environmental Engineering, Ming Chi University of Technology, New Taipei City, Taiwan
6 Center for Environmental Sustainability and Human Health, Ming Chi University of Technology, New Taipei City, Taiwan
7 Department of Occupational Safety and Health, China Medical University, Taichung, Taiwan
8 Department of Safety, Health and Environmental Engineering, National United University, Miaoli, Taiwan


Received: April 19, 2023
Revised: August 8, 2023
Accepted: August 19, 2023

 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.

Download Citation: ||https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.230092  

Cite this article:

Ting, Y.C., Ku, C.H., Zou, Y.X., Chi, K.H., Soo, J.C., Hsu, C.Y., Chen, Y.C. (2023). Characteristics and Source-specific Health Risks of Ambient PM2.5-bound PAHs in an Urban City of Northern Taiwan. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.230092


  • PM2.5-bound PAHs and their source-specific human health risks were evaluated.
  • Seasonal variations of PAHs with a high level in winter were obtained.
  • BghiP, BbF, IND, and CHR were typical markers of urban PAHs.
  • Source-health risk assessment can guide effective mitigation strategies.
  • Traffic emissions mainly contributed to human cancer risks in the city.


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) with highly toxic compounds mainly exist in small-sized particles and can induce considerable human health risks. Studies on PM2.5-bound PAHs and their source-specific human health risks still remain scarce. Daily PM2.5 samples (n = 119) were collected every three days from 2016 to 2017 in Taipei city, Taiwan. Fifteen PAHs in PM2.5 were analyzed via gas chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (GC/MS-MS). We utilized a positive matrix factorization (PMF) model, diagnostic ratios, and potential source contribution function (PSCF) to identify the origins of PM2.5-bound PAHs. The annual concentration of total PAHs (TPAH) was 0.79 ± 0.67 ng m–3 (range = 0.11–3.27 ng m–3). The highest and lowest values of TPAH appeared in winter and autumn with a mean of 1.36 ng m–3 and 0.43 ng m–3, respectively. The contributions of high-molecular-weight PAHs (HMW PAHs) to TPAH were notably higher than those of low-molecular-weight PAHs (LMW PAHs) during the sampling period. Benzo[ghi]perylene (BghiP) accounted for the highest percentage (23.9%) of TPAH among selected congeners. Traffic emissions (31.3%) were identified as the predominant contributor to ambient PM2.5-bound PAHs, followed by industrial emissions (29.2%), evaporated/unburned oil (22.3%), and biomass/coal combustion (17.1%). Apart from the local sources, PSCF-derived results showed that emissions from industrial activities in northeast China and shipping around the Yellow Sea and East China Sea could affect the PAHs in the study area. Traffic emissions were the strongest contributor to human health risk, thus pointing to the significance of control over vehicle exhaust. This study suggests that it is necessary to distinguish the sources of the PM2.5-bound PAHs in order to underpin preventive and mitigative strategies for protecting environmental and public health.

Keywords: PAHs, Seasonal variation, Source identification, Source-specific health risk, Urban

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