Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 24, Issue 13, pp 11890–11900 | Cite as

Monitoring PAHs in the petrochemical area of Tarragona County, Spain: comparing passive air samplers with lichen transplants

  • Noelia Domínguez-Morueco
  • Sofia Augusto
  • Laura Trabalón
  • Eva Pocurull
  • Francesc Borrull
  • Marta Schuhmacher
  • José L. Domingo
  • Martí Nadal
Biomonitoring of atmospheric pollution: possibilities and future challenges


The levels of 16 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were determined in 8 passive air samples (PAS) and 6 lichen transplants (Ramalina fastigiata) deployed for a period of 2 months in different zones of Tarragona County (Catalonia, Spain), an area with an important number of chemical and petrochemical industries. The accumulated amount of the sum of the 16 PAHs ranged between 1363 to 7866 ng/sample in air samples. The highest concentration was found in the neighborhood of Puigdelfí (village of Perafort), in the vicinity of a big oil refinery and well under the potential influence of the petrochemical emissions. In lichen samples, the sum of the 16 PAHs ranged between 247 and 841 ng/g (dry weight), being the greatest value also observed in Puigdelfí. Data on the levels and profiles of PAHs in both passive monitoring methods were compared. A significant positive linear correlation was found between the concentrations of low molecular weight PAHs in lichens and the amounts accumulated in passive air samples (R = 0.827, P < 0.05), being especially significant the correlation of 4-ring PAHs (R = 0.941, P < 0.05). These results strongly suggest that lichens can be used to monitor gas-phase PAHs, providing data that can be quantitatively translated into equivalents for air.


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) Passive air sampling (PAS) Polyurethane foams (PUF) Lichens samples Biomonitoring Tarragona, Spain 



This work has been supported by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Mineco), through the project CTM2012-33079 and by Mancomunitat d’Incineració dels Residus Urbans, Tarragona, Spain. Noelia Domínguez-Morueco also received a PhD fellowship (BES-2013-066313) from the Mineco (FPI Predoctoral Contracts for Doctors Training 2013), while Sofia Augusto acknowledges the European Union Seventh Framework Programme for the Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship for Career Development (FP7-PEOPLE-2013-IEF-624022). Antoni Sans and Ferran Clua, from the Departament de Territori i Sostenibilitat (Generalitat de Catalunya, Spain), are acknowledged for their assistance in the deployment of PAS.

Supplementary material

11356_2015_5612_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 17 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Noelia Domínguez-Morueco
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sofia Augusto
    • 1
    • 3
  • Laura Trabalón
    • 4
  • Eva Pocurull
    • 4
  • Francesc Borrull
    • 4
  • Marta Schuhmacher
    • 1
    • 2
  • José L. Domingo
    • 2
  • Martí Nadal
    • 2
  1. 1.Environmental Engineering Laboratory, Departament d’Enginyeria QuimicaUniversitat Rovira i VirgiliTarragonaSpain
  2. 2.Laboratory of Toxicology and Environmental Health, School of Medicine, IISPVUniversitat Rovira i VirgiliReusSpain
  3. 3.Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes (cE3c)Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, FCULLisboaPortugal
  4. 4.Departament de Química Analítica i Química OrgànicaUniversitat Rovira i VirgiliTarragonaSpain

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