Sources and health risks of ambient polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in China Academic Article uri icon


  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the environment are of significant concerns due to their high toxicity to human health. PAHs measurements at limited air quality monitoring stations alone are insufficient to gain a complete understanding of ambient levels and public exposure of PAHs in China. This study simulated the concentrations of PAHs in China, identified the source contributions, and estimated the health risks. Anthropogenic emissions of 16 priority PAHs directly associated with health risks were generated from the global high-resolution PKU-FUEL-2007 inventory. Open biomass burning emissions were generated from the Fire Inventory from NCAR (FINN). PAHs concentrations in January, April, July, and October 2013 were simulated using the Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model after incorporation of chemistry, partitioning, and deposition of PAHs. Predicted PAHs were in good agreement with seasonal and annual averaged observations from previous studies. The surface concentrations of 16-PAHs were higher in winter, with population weight average of 0.8 μg/m3 and peak value of 2.0 μg/m3 in urban areas in the North China Plain (NCP) and the Yangtze River Delta (YRD). Summer and spring exhibited lower concentrations of approximately 0.2 μg/m3 in most areas. The most important sources to PAHs were biomass burning and coal combustion in winter and industrial processes and oil and gas activities in summer. The cancer risk due to inhalation exposure of naphthalene (NAPH) and seven carcinogenic PAHs was significant, with the incremental lifetime cancer risk (ILCR) of >5 × 10-4 in many urban and industrial areas. Exposure to PAHs was estimated to result in 15,198 excess lifetime cancer cases in China. Oil and gas burning associated with transport, residential and commercial activities were major contributors to ILCR in China. Coal combustion was predominant in Shanxi but less important in other regions.

altmetric score

  • 2.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Han, F., Guo, H., Hu, J., Zhang, J., Ying, Q. i., & Zhang, H.

citation count

  • 14

publication date

  • September 2019