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Characteristics, toxicity, source identification and seasonal variation of atmospheric polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons over East India

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Atmospheric PM2.5-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were analyzed over urban and rural sites during January to December 2018. Total annual average concentration of PM2.5 was 74.41 ± 24.96 μg/m3 over urban and 52.03 ± 13.11 μg/m3 over rural site during study time. The annual average concentration of PM2.5 over urban and rural atmospheres were found approximately twice in urban and found also higher over rural site, with respect to National Ambient Air Quality (NAAQ) standard of 40 μg/m3 for PM2.5 concentration. The annual concentration of PAHs was 750.80 ± 19.49 ng/m3 over urban, and, over rural, it was 559.59 ± 17.56 ng/m3. The seasonal variation of concentration of PAHs was in order of winter > post-monsoon > summer > monsoon. The most predominant PAHs were IcP (17.21%), B(ghi) P(15.22%), BkF (11.60%), DBahA (11.34%) and BbF (10.91%) to the total PAH concentration over urban site; over rural site, most predominant PAHs were IcP (16.02%), B(ghi)P, (15.63%), BkF (11.46%), DBahA (11.12%) and BbF (8.99%) of total PAHs. DBahA concentration was contributed approximately 46% carcinogenicity over both urban and rural sites, and BaP contributes 33.56% carcinogenicity over urban site and 34.62% carcinogenicity over rural site of total PAH samples. The Excess Life Time Cancer Risk (ELCR) values over urban were found at acceptable limit 10-6–10-4 given by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Over rural site, the ELCR value was found near about acceptable limit. Diagnostic ratio analysis demonstrated that major sources of PAHs were pyrogenic sources and vehicular emission over study. Air parcel through trajectories over study site also contributed in PAH concentration.

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The authors thank the Meteorological Data Explorer (METEX, and NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Fire Information for Resource and Management System (FIRMS) for provision of trajectories and fire count data ( used in publication.


The study was financially supported by Science & Engineering Research Board, Department of Science & Technology, (SERB- DST) Government of India, Sanction Order No EEQ/2016/000504.

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Correspondence to Balram Ambade.

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Kumar, A., Sankar, T.K., Sethi, S.S. et al. Characteristics, toxicity, source identification and seasonal variation of atmospheric polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons over East India. Environ Sci Pollut Res 27, 678–690 (2020).

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  • PM2.5
  • PAHs
  • Carcinogenicity
  • ELCR
  • Diagnostic ratio