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Indoor and Outdoor PM10-Bound PAHs in an Urban Environment. Similarity of Mixtures and Source Attribution


Given that the European Union lays down air quality objectives associated with outdoor environments, indoor air mixtures’ study acquires a remarkable relevance. This work aims to submit a stepwise methodological framework for assessing similarities between indoor and outdoor air mixtures and apportioning potential emission sources. For reaching this goal, PM10 particles were systematically and simultaneously collected at an indoor (dominant emission sources free) and outdoor environment during a year to determine the PAH content in both air mixtures. Broadly, outdoor PAHs levels were higher than at the indoor location, supporting a strong association between both mixtures (r = 0.968, p > 0.001), mainly during the cold period (r = 0.896, p > 0.001). The light molecular weight PAHs were highlighted at the indoor site, in particular to naphthalene and anthracene. Outdoor emission sources influenced the indoor PAH levels, especially high and medium molecular weight PAHs. The local-traffic load was identified as a dominant pollution source responsible for more than half PAHs determined at both environments. Therefore, the control of outdoor emission sources would be translated into an improvement of indoor air quality.

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The authors would like to thank the Department of Atmospheric Pollution of the National Center for Environment Health for their collaboration in the sample collection and Municipality of Madrid for their assistance in this work.


This work was supported by the Carlos III Health Institute (AESI Project: SPY 1357/16).

Author information




DGM and JGC were responsible for the designing study. DGM validated the analytical method for the PM10-bound PAHs determination, performed the data treatment, and wrote the manuscript. RMU and JMT analyzed ambient samples and, with SGS, collected PM10 particles.

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Correspondence to David Galán-Madruga.

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Galán-Madruga, D., Terroba, J.M., dos Santos, S.G. et al. Indoor and Outdoor PM10-Bound PAHs in an Urban Environment. Similarity of Mixtures and Source Attribution. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 105, 951–957 (2020).

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  • Air quality
  • Indoor vs outdoor
  • Airborne PAH
  • Mixture likeness
  • Apportionment of sources