Multimedia modeling of the PAH concentration and distribution in the Yangtze River Delta and human health risk assessment

Ying Zhu, Shu Tao, Jianteng Sun, Xilong Wang, Xiangdong Li, Daniel C.W. Tsang, Lizhong Zhu, Guofeng Shen, Huijing Huang, Chuanyang Cai, Wenxin Liu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in China remain at a high level compared to those in developed countries. The Yangtze River Delta (YRD) is an economic and industrial center in China with an extremely large population. The potentially high emissions and excess cancer risk from human exposure in this region cannot be neglected. This study applied a multimedia model to estimate the concentrations of 16 US EPA priority PAHs in the environment in the YRD with a well-developed PAH-emission inventory for 2014. The model predicted that the average concentrations of ΣPAHs were 274 ng/m 3 in the air, 255 ng/g in the soil, 15 ng/g in vegetation, 147 ng/L in freshwater and 144 ng/g in sediment, as well as 99 ng/L and 80 ng/g in seawater and sediment, respectively. Soil is the PAH sink in this region, and the net flux of the total PAHs is always from air to soil for each isomer. A deterministic assessment observed that the ELCR (excess lifetime cancer risk) ranged from 2.5 × 10 −6 to 3.0 × 10 −5 for exposure by air inhalation and from 3.5 × 10 −7 to 7.9 × 10 −6 for exposure by soil ingestion. The probabilistic results did not find any probability of ELCR >10 −4 by exposure via soil ingestion in the YRD. The probabilistic ELCR induced by inhalation exposure varied from 8.1 × 10 −7 to 3.1 × 10 −4 in the YRD. This study provided a comprehensive overview of PAHs occurrence in natural environments and of the relevant human health risks. The information presented in this study could help authorities to enact a strategy regarding emission reduction and pollution control relevant to PAHs. Capsule: Multimedia modeling predicted distributions and compositions of PAHs in different environmental compartments, and deterministic and probabilistic ELCRs induced by air inhalation and soil ingestion were also provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)962-972
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2019


  • Distribution
  • Exchange
  • Health risk assessment
  • Multimedia modeling
  • PAHs
  • The YRD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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