Source apportionment of atmospheric PAHs and their toxicity using PMF: Impact of gas/particle partitioning

Bo Gao, Xin Ming Wang, Xiu Ying Zhao, Xiang Ding, Xiao Xin Fu, Yan Li Zhang, Quan Fu He, Zhou Zhang, Teng Yu Liu, Zou Zhao Huang, Lai Guo Chen, Yan Peng, Hai Guo

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


24-hPM2.5samples were simultaneously collected at six sites in a subtropical city of South China during November-December, 2009. Particle-phase concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and organic tracers such as hopanes for vehicular emissions (VE), levoglucosan for biomass burning (BB) and picene for coal combustion (CC) were determined. Meanwhile, their gas-phase concentrations were calculated from gas/particle (G/P) partitioning theory using the particle-phase concentrations. The 4 ring PAHs (fluoranthene to chrysene) had lower particle-phase fractions (10%-79%) than other species. Estimated BaPeqand lifetime cancer risk for particle-only (P-only) vs gas+particle (G+P) data sets showed similar values, indicating PAHs with 5-7 rings dominated the carcinogenicity of PAHs. Positive Matrix Factorization (PMF) was applied on both P-only and G+P data sets to estimate the source contributions to PAHs and their toxicity. Three common sources were identified: VE, BB and CC, with CC as the most significant source for both particulate (58%) and total (G+P, 40%) PAHs. While CC exhibited consistent contributions to BaPeqfor P-only (66%) vs G+P (62%) solutions, VE and BB contributions were under- and overestimated by 68% and 47%, respectively by the P-only solution, as compared to the G+P solution. The results provide an insight on the impact of G/P partitioning on the source apportionment of PAHs and their toxicity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-120
Number of pages7
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015


  • PAHs
  • Partitioning
  • PM 2.5
  • Source apportionment
  • Toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science

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