, Volume 185, Issue 2, pp 1199-1213
Date: 20 Apr 2012

Profile of PAHs in the inhalable particulate fraction: source apportionment and associated health risks in a tropical megacity

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Abstract

The present study proposed to investigate the atmospheric distribution, sources, and inhalation health risks of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in a tropical megacity (Delhi, India). To this end, 16 US EPA priority PAHs were measured in the inhalable fraction of atmospheric particles (PM10; aerodynamic diameter, ≤10 μm) collected weekly at three residential areas in Delhi from December 2008 to November 2009. Mean annual 24 h PM10 levels at the sites (166.5–192.3 μg m−3) were eight to ten times the WHO limit. Weekday/weekend effects on PM10 and associated PAHs were investigated. Σ16PAH concentrations (sum of 16 PAHs analyzed; overall annual mean, 105.3 ng m−3; overall range, 10.5–511.9 ng m−3) observed were at least an order of magnitude greater than values reported from European and US cities. Spatial variations in PAHs were influenced by nearness to traffic and thermal power plants while seasonal variation trends showed highest concentrations in winter. Associations between Σ16PAHs and various meteorological parameters were investigated. The overall PAH profile was dominated by combustion-derived large-ring species (85–87 %) that were essentially local in origin. Carcinogenic PAHs contributed 58–62 % to Σ16PAH loads at the sites. Molecular diagnostic ratios were used for preliminary assessment of PAH sources. Principal component analysis coupled with multiple linear regression-identified vehicular emissions as the predominant source (62–83 %), followed by coal combustion (18–19 %), residential fuel use (19 %), and industrial emissions (16 %). Spatio-temporal variations and time-evolution of source contributions were studied. Inhalation cancer risk assessment showed that a maximum of 39,780 excess cancer cases might occur due to lifetime inhalation exposure to the analyzed PAH concentrations.