Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Characterization of PM2.5-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and its deposition in Populus tomentosa leaves in Beijing


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are ubiquitous constituents of air particulate matter and can be taken up by plants from the atmosphere. However, the purification of particulate-bound PAHs in the atmosphere by greening tree species has not been reported. In this study, we assess the concentrations, distribution, and sources of PM2.5-bound PAHs at three representative sites of Beijing in April, July, and November (non-heating period) and analyze the correlation between PAHs in Populus tomentosa leaves and in atmospheric PM2.5. The total PAH concentrations in PM2.5 were in the range of 19.85 ± 13.59–42.01 ± 37.17 ng/m3 with mean value of 31.35 ng/m3 at the three sites, and the PM2.5-bound PAHs concentrations in the two suburban sites (YF and YQ) were significantly higher than that in urban site (XZM) in November (autumn). At the three sites, the high molecular weight (HMW) PAHs in PM2.5 were dominant, accounting for 54.09–64.90% of total PAHs and the concentration of HMW PAHs was, on average, 9.1 times higher than that of low molecular weight (LWM) PAHs. Principal component analysis combined with diagnostic ratio analysis indicated that vehicle emission, wood combustion, and industrial processes were the main sources for PM2.5-bound PAHs in the non-heating period of Beijing. However, the LMW PAHs were dominant in P. tomentosa leaves. The concentrations of HMW PAHs (BbF, BkF, BaP, IcdP, and BghiP) in P. tomentosa leaves reached 26.11 ± 2.39, 41.42 ± 7.77, and 55.70 ± 12.33 ng/g at YQ, XZM, and YF in autumn, respectively, and were, on average, 2.1 times higher than those in April (spring) at the three sites. The ∑5PAHs concentration in P. tomentosa leaves accumulatively increased from spring to autumn, which was not related to the temporal variation of PM2.5-bound PAHs. Nevertheless, the ∑5PAHs mean concentrations followed the order of YF > XZM > YQ. This trend was consistent with spatial distribution of atmosphere PM2.5, indicating that HMW PAHs in leaves increased with the increase of atmosphere PM2.5 concentration. Our results indicated that P. tomentosa may be used as a useful species for removing PAHs from the air and biomonitoring PAHs in atmosphere.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5


  1. Afzal M, Khan QM, Sessitsch A (2014) Endophytic bacteria: prospects and applications for the phytoremediation of organic pollutants. Chemosphere 117:232–242

  2. Bakker MI, Vorenhout M, Sijm DTHM, Kollöffel C (1999) Dry deposition of atmospheric polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in three Plantago species. Environ Toxicol Chem 18(10):2289–2294

  3. Bakker MI, Koerselman JW, Tolls J, Kolloffel C (2001) Localization of deposited polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in leaves of Plantago. Environ Toxicol Chem 20(5):1112–1116

  4. Bandowe BAM, Meusel H, Huang R-J, Ho K, Cao J, Hoffmann T, Wilcke W (2014) PM2.5-bound oxygenated PAHs, nitro-PAHs and parent-PAHs from the atmosphere of a Chinese megacity: seasonal variation, sources and cancer risk assessment. Sci Total Environ 473-474:77–87

  5. Barber JL, Thomas GO, Kerstiens G, Jones KC (2003) Study of plant-air transfer of PCBs from an evergreen shrub: implications for mechanisms and modeling. Environ Toxicol Chem 37(17):3838–3844

  6. Bourotte C, Forti MS, Taniguchi S, Bicego MC, Lotufo PA (2005) A wintertime study of PAHs in fine and coarse aerosols in Sao Paulo city, Brazil. Atmos Environ 39(21):3799–3811

  7. Cao JJ, Lee SC, Ho KF, Zhang XY, Zou SC, Fung K, Chow JC, Watson JG (2003) Characteristics of carbonaceous aerosol in Pearl River Delta Region, China during 2001 winter period. Atmos Environ 37(11):1451–1460

  8. Chang KF, Fang GC, Chen JC, Wu YS (2006) Atmospheric polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Asia: a review from 1999 to 2004. Environ Pollut 142(3):388–396

  9. Collins C, Fryer M, Grosso A (2006) Plant uptake of non-ionic organic chemicals. Environ Sci Technol 40(1):45–52

  10. Desalme D, Binet P, Chiapusio G (2013) Challenges in tracing the fate and effects of atmospheric polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon deposition in vascular plants. Environ Sci Technol 47(9):3967–3981

  11. Dörr G, Hippelein M, Kaupp H, Hutzinger O (1996) Baseline contamination assessment for a new resource recovery facility in Germany: part VI: levels and profiles of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in ambient air. Chemosphere 33(8):1569–1578

  12. Duan JC, Tan JH, Cheng DX, Bi XH, Deng WJ, Sheng GY, Fu JM, Wong MH (2007) Sources and characteristics of carbonaceous aerosol in two largest cities in Pearl River Delta Region, China. Atmos Environ 41(14):2895–2903

  13. Duan JC, Tan JH, Wang SL, Chai FH, He KB, Hao JM (2012) Roadside, urban, and rural comparison of size distribution characteristics of PAHs and carbonaceous components of Beijing, China. J Atmos Chem 69(4):337–349

  14. Fang GC, Wu YS, Chen JC, Chang CN, Ho TT (2006) Characteristic of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon concentrations and source identification for fine and coarse particulates at Taichung Harbor near Taiwan Strait during 2004–2005. Sci Total Environ 366(2–3):729–738

  15. Franzaring J, Eerden LJMVD (2000) Accumulation of airborne persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in plants. Basic Appl Ecol 1(1):25–30

  16. Friedman CL, Pierce JR, Selin NE (2014) Assessing the influence of secondary organic versus primary carbonaceous aerosols on long-range atmospheric polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon transport. Environ Sci Technol 48(6):3293–3302

  17. Ghosal D, Ghosh S, Dutta TK, Ahn Y (2016) Current state of knowledge in microbial degradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs): a review. Front Microbiol 7(1369)

  18. Guo ZG, Lin T, Zhang G, Hu LM, Zheng M (2009) Occurrence and sources of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and n-alkanes in PM2.5 in the roadside environment of a major city in China. J Hazard Mater 170(2–3):888–894

  19. Han B, Ding X, Bai ZP, Kong SF, Guo GH (2011) Source analysis of particulate matter associated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in an industrial city in northeastern China. J Environ Monitor 13(9):2597–2604

  20. He JB, Fan SX, Meng QZ, Sun Y, Zhang J, Zu F (2014) Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) associated with fine particulate matters in Nanjing, China: distributions, sources and meteorological influences. Atmos Environ 89:207–215

  21. He QS, Guo WD, Zhang GX, Yan YL, Chen LG (2015) Characteristics and seasonal variations of carbonaceous species in PM2.5 in Taiyuan, China. Atmosphere 6(6):850–862

  22. Hien TT, Nam PP, Yasuhiro S, Takayuki K, Norimichi T, Hiroshi B (2007) Comparison of particle-phase polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and their variability causes in the ambient air in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and in Osaka, Japan, during 2005-2006. Sci Total Environ 382(1):70–81

  23. Howsam M, Jones KC, Ineson P (2000) PAHs associated with the leaves of three deciduous tree species. I—concentrations and profiles. Environ Pollut 108(3):413–424

  24. Huang XF, He LY, Hu M, Zhang YH (2006) Annual variation of particulate organic compounds in PM2.5 in the urban atmosphere of Beijing. Atmos Environ 40(14):2449–2458

  25. Huang R-J, Zhang YL, Bozzetti C et al (2014) High secondary aerosol contribution to particulate pollution during haze events in China. Nature 514(7521):218–222

  26. Jang E, Alam MS, Harrison RM (2013) Source apportionment of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in urban air using positive matrix factorization and spatial distribution analysis. Atmos Environ 79:271–285

  27. Jiang YL, Hou XM, Zhuang GS, Li J, Wang QZ, Zhang R, Lin YF (2009) The sources and seasonal variations of organic compounds in PM2.5 in Beijing and Shanghai. J Atmos Chem 62(3):175–192

  28. Kameda T (2011) Atmospheric chemistry of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and related compounds. J Health Sci 57(6):504–511

  29. Khan MF, Latif MT, Lim CH, Amil N, Jaafar SA, Dominick D, Nadzir MSM, Sahani M, Tahir NM (2015) Seasonal effect and source apportionment of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in PM2.5. Atmos Environ 106:178–190

  30. Kim KH, Jahan SA, Kabir E, Brown RJC (2013) A review of airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and their human health effects. Environ Int 60:71–80

  31. Kong SF, Ding X, Bai ZP, Han B, Chen L, Shi JW, Li ZY (2010) A seasonal study of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in PM2.5 and PM2.5-10 in five typical cities of Liaoning Province, China. J Hazard Mater 183(1–3):70–80

  32. Kong SF, Ji YQ, Li ZY, Lu B, Bai ZP (2013) Emission and profile characteristic of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in PM2.5 and PM10 from stationary sources based on dilution sampling. Atmos Environ 77:155–165

  33. Larsen RK, Baker JE (2003) Source apportionment of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the urban atmosphere: a comparison of three methods. Environ Sci Technol 37(9):1873–1881

  34. Li J, Zhang G, Li XD, Qi SH, Liu GQ, Peng XZ (2006) Source seasonality of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in a subtropical city, Guangzhou, South China. Sci Total Environ 355(1–3):145–155

  35. Li Z, Sjodin A, Porter EN, Patterson DG Jr, Needham LL, Lee S, Russell AG, Mulholland JA (2009) Characterization of PM2.5-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in Atlanta. Atmos Environ 43(5):1043–1050

  36. Liu YJ, Liu QY, Wang XX, Zhang TT (2015b) Seasonal trends of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in particulate matter at an urban site in Beijing, China. J Geosci Environ Prot 3:10–16

  37. Liu JJ, Man RL, Ma SX, Li JS, Wu Q, Peng JY (2015a) Atmospheric levels and health risk of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) bound to PM2.5 in Guangzhou, China. Mar Pollut Bull 100(1):134–143

  38. Mazquiarán MAB, Pinedo LCOD (2007) Organic composition of atmospheric urban aerosol: variations and sources of aliphatic and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Atmos Res 85(3–4):288–299

  39. Mclachlan MS (1999) Framework for the interpretation of measurements of SOCs in plants. Environ Sci Technol 33(11):1799–1804

  40. Menezes HC, Cardeal ZL (2012) Study of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in atmospheric particulate matter of an urban area with iron and steel mills. Environ Toxicol Chem 31(7):1470–1477

  41. Mocali S, Bertelli E, Di Cello F, Mengoni A, Sfalanga A, Viliani F, Caciotti A, Tegli S, Surico G, Fani R (2003) Fluctuation of bacteria isolated from elm tissues during different seasons and from different plant organs. Res Microbiol 154(2):105–114

  42. Murakami M, Abe M, Kakumoto Y, Kawano H, Fukasawa H, Saha M, Takada H (2012) Evaluation of ginkgo as a biomonitor of airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Atmos Environ 54:9–17

  43. Newman LA, Reynolds CM (2005) Bacteria and phytoremediation: new uses for endophytic bacteria in plants. Trends Biotechnol 23(1):8–9

  44. Nicola FD, Maisto G, Prati MV, Alfani A (2005) Temporal variations in PAH concentrations in Quercus ilex L. (holm oak) leaves in an urban area. Chemosphere 61(3):432–440

  45. Nicola FD, Maisto G, Prati MV, Alfani A (2008) Leaf accumulation of trace elements and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Quercus ilex L. Environ Pollut 153(2):376–383

  46. Niu JF, Chen JW, Martens D, Quan X, Yang FL, Kettrup A, Schramm KW (2003) Photolysis of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons adsorbed on spruce [ Picea abies (L.) Karst.] needles under sunlight irradiation. Environ Pollut 123(1):39–45

  47. Niu ZC, Chen JS, Xu LL, Yin LQ, Zhang FW (2013) Application of the environmental internet of things on monitoring PM2.5 at a coastal site in the urbanizing region of Southeast China. Int J Sust Dev World 20(3):231–237

  48. Oliveira RL, Loyola J, Minho AS, Quiterio SL, Azevedo DA, Arbilla G (2014) PM2.5-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in an area of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil impacted by emissions of light-duty vehicles fueled by ethanol-blended gasoline. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 93(6):781–786

  49. Orlinski R (2002) Multipoint moss passive samplers assessment of urban airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons: concentrations profile and distribution along Warsaw main streets. Chemosphere 48(2):181–186

  50. Park SS, Kim YJ, Kang CH (2002) Atmospheric polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in Seoul, Korea. Atmos Environ 36(17):2917–2924

  51. Parrish DD, Zhu T (2009) Clean air for megacities. Science 326(5953):674–675

  52. Peng RH, Xiong AS, Xue Y, Fu XY, Gao F, Zhao W, Tian YS, Yao QH (2008) Microbial biodegradation of polyaromatic hydrocarbons. FEMS Microbiol Rev 32(6):927–955

  53. Piccardo MT, Pala M, Bonaccurso B, Stella A, Redaelli A, Paola G, Valerio F (2005) Pinus nigra and Pinus pinaster needles as passive samplers of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Environ Pollut 133(2):293–301

  54. Prajapati SK, Tripathi BD (2008) Biomonitoring seasonal variation of urban air polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) using Ficus benghalensis leaves. Environ Pollut 151(3):543–548

  55. Rubailo AI, Oberenkob AV (2008) Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons as priority pollutants. J Siberian Fed Univ Chem 4(1):344–354

  56. Sarkar S, Khillare PS (2012) Profile of PAHs in the inhalable particulate fraction: source apportionment and associated health risks in a tropical megacity. Environ Monit Assess 185(2):1199–1213

  57. Simcik MF, Eisenreich SJ, Lioy PJ (1999) Source apportionment and source/sink relationships of PAHs in the coastal atmosphere of Chicago and Lake Michigan. Atmos Environ 33(30):5071–5079

  58. Simonich SL, Hites RA (1994) Vegetation-atmosphere partitioning of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Environ Sci Technol 28(5):939–943

  59. Sin DW, Wong YC, Choi YY, Lam CH, Louie PK (2003) Distribution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the atmosphere of Hong Kong. J Environ Monitor 5(6):989–996

  60. Smith KEC, Jones KC (2000) Particles and vegetation: implications for the transfer of particle-bound organic contaminants to vegetation. Sci Total Environ 246(2–3):207–236

  61. Wang GH, Kawamura K, Zhao X, Li QG, Dai ZX, Niu HY (2007) Identification, abundance and seasonal variation of anthropogenic organic aerosols from a mega-city in China. Atmos Environ 41(2):407–416

  62. Wang XF, Cheng HX, Xu XB, Zhuang GM, Zhao CD (2008a) A wintertime study of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in PM2.5 and PM2.5-10 in Beijing: assessment of energy structure conversion. J Hazard Mater 157(1):47–56

  63. Wang YQ, Tao S, Jiao XC, Coveney RM, Wu SP, Xing BS (2008b) Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in leaf cuticles and inner tissues of six species of trees in urban Beijing. Environ Pollut 151(1):158–164

  64. Wang Z, Ren PF, Sun Y, Ma XD, Liu X, Na GS, Yao ZW (2013) Gas/particle partitioning of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in coastal atmosphere of the north Yellow Sea, China. Environ Sci Pollut Res 20(8):5753–5763

  65. Wang J, Geng NB, Xu YF, Zhang WD, Tang XY, Zhang RQ (2014a) PAHs in PM2.5 in Zhengzhou: concentration, carcinogenic risk analysis, and source apportionment. Environ Monit Assess 186(11):7461–7473

  66. Wang FW, Lin T, Li YY, Ji TY, Ma CL, Guo ZG (2014b) Sources of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in PM2.5 over the East China Sea, a downwind domain of East Asian continental outflow. Atmos Environ 92:484–492

  67. Wannaz ED, Abril GA, Rodriguez JH, Pignata ML (2013) Assessment of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in industrial and urban areas using passive air samplers and leaves of Tillandsia capillaris. J Environ Chem Eng 1(4):1028–1035

  68. Weyens N, Taghavi S, Barac T, van der Lelie D, Boulet J, Artois T, Carleer R, Vangronsveld J (2009) Bacteria associated with oak and ash on a TCE-contaminated site: characterization of isolates with potential to avoid evapotranspiration of TCE. Environ Sci Pollut Res 16(7):830–843

  69. Wild E, Jones KC (2009) Novel method for the direct visualization of in vivo nanomaterials and chemical interactions in plants. Environ Sci Technol 43(14):5290–5294

  70. Wu SP, Tao S, Xu FL, Dawson D, Lan T, Li BG, Cao J (2005) Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in dustfall in Tianjin, China. Sci Total Environ 345(1–3):115–126

  71. Wu D, Wang ZS, Chen JH, Kong SF, Fu X, Deng HB, Shao GF, Wu G (2014) Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in atmospheric PM2.5 and PM10 at a coal-based industrial city: implication for PAH control at industrial agglomeration regions, China. Atmos Res 149:217–229

  72. Yan BZ, Bopp RF, Abrajano TA, Chaky D, Chillrud SN (2014) Source apportionment of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) into Central Park Lake, New York City, over a century of deposition. Environ Toxicol Chem 33(5):985–992

  73. Yunker MB, Macdonald RW, Vingarzan R, Mitchell RH, Goyette D, Sylvestre S (2002) PAHs in the Fraser River basin: a critical appraisal of PAH ratios as indicators of PAH source and composition. Org Geochem 33(4):489–515

  74. Zhang FW, Xu LL, Chen JS, Chen XQ, Niu ZC, Lei T, Li CM, Zhao JP (2013) Chemical characteristics of PM2.5 during haze episodes in the urban of Fuzhou, China. Particuology 11(3):264–272

  75. Zhou Y, Cheng SY, Chen DS, Lang JL, Wang G, Xu TT, Wang XQ, Yao S (2015) Temporal and spatial characteristics of ambient air quality in Beijing, China. Aerosol Air Qual Res 15:1868–1880

Download references


This study was financially supported by the Special Fund for forestry scientific Research in the Public Interests (201304301) and the 111 Project (B13007). We are thankful for the assistance of CSD IDEA (Beijing) Environmental Test & Analysis Co., Ltd. during sampling courses.

Author information

Correspondence to Xinli Xia.

Additional information

Responsible editor: Constantini Samara

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

An, H., Zhang, G., Liu, C. et al. Characterization of PM2.5-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and its deposition in Populus tomentosa leaves in Beijing. Environ Sci Pollut Res 24, 8504–8515 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-8516-5

Download citation


  • Beijing
  • PM2.5
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • Populus tomentosa
  • Principal component analysis
  • Biomonitoring