Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 107–114 | Cite as

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in air associated with particles PM2.5 in the Basque Country (Spain)

  • Miren Begoña Zubero OleagoitiaEmail author
  • Aitana Lertxundi Manterola
  • Jesús Ibarluzea Maurolagoitia
  • María Dolores Martínez López de Dicastillo
  • Jon Álvarez
  • Mikel Ayerdi Barandiaran
  • Amaia Irizar Loibide
  • Loreto Santa-Marina


The polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a group of persistent pollutants that are globally distributed. The objectives of this study are as follows: (1) to analyze the levels of the priority PAHs in the PM2.5 fraction of air: naphthalene, acenaphthene, fluorene, phenanthrene, anthracene, fluoranthene, pyrene, benzoanthracene, chrysene, benzo(b)fluoranthene, benzo(k)fluoranthene, benzo(a)pyrene, dibenzoanthracene, benzo(g,h,i)perylene, indenepyrene, acenaphthylene, in two urban industrial areas of the province of Gipuzkoa (Basque Country, Spain), (2) to describe seasonal variation, and (3) to identify the source of PAHs. The ∑PAH concentrations ranged from 0.85 to 9.86 ng/m3. We found statistical differences between sites of sampling (p < 0.05), with higher values in Azpeitia. The median value of benzo(a)pyrene was 0.05 ng/m3 (ranged from 0.05 to 1.12 ng/m3), lower than the threshold set by the European legislation. Statistical differences were found (p < 0.05) in relation to seasonal variation, with the highest levels registered in winter and in autumn. PAH ratios and principal component analysis (PCA) revealed that probably the vehicular emissions are the predominant source of PAHs.


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon PM2.5 PAH ratios Pollution sources Seasonal variation Principal component analysis (PCA) 



Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons


International Agency for Research on Cancer




































Particulate matter 2.5


Detection limit


Limit of detection


Limit of quantification


Principal component analysis





We want to thank the town councils of the study areas for their help during the sampling time and especially to all the families that, voluntarily, took part in the INMA project (Environment and Childhood), for without their collaboration, it would not have been possible to carry out this study.


This study received financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Health and Consumer (Fund for Health Research Project PI06/0867 and Fund for Health Research Project PS09/00090), the Basque Government (Project 2009111069), and the town councils involved: Azpeitia, Azkoitia, Urretxu, Zumarraga, Legazpi and Beasain.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miren Begoña Zubero Oleagoitia
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Aitana Lertxundi Manterola
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jesús Ibarluzea Maurolagoitia
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • María Dolores Martínez López de Dicastillo
    • 2
    • 5
  • Jon Álvarez
    • 2
    • 6
  • Mikel Ayerdi Barandiaran
    • 2
    • 4
  • Amaia Irizar Loibide
    • 2
  • Loreto Santa-Marina
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Preventive Medicine and Public Health DepartmentUniversity of the Basque CountryLeioaSpain
  2. 2.Institute of Health Research BIODONOSTIASan SebastiánSpain
  3. 3.Spanish Consortium for Research and Public Health (CIBERESP)Carlos III health InstituteMadridSpain
  4. 4.Subdirectorate of Public Health and Addictions of GipuzkoaBasque GovernmentSan SebastiánSpain
  5. 5.Department of Environment, Territorial Planning and Housing of GipuzkoaBasque GovernmentSan SebastianSpain
  6. 6.Public Health Normative Laboratory, Health DepartmentBasque GovernmentSan SebastianSpain

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