Origin of atmospheric polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Chinese cities solved by compound-specific stable carbon isotopic analyses

Tomoaki Okuda, Hidetoshi Kumata, Hiroshi Naraoka, Hideshige Takada

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We report measurement of molecular and carbon isotopic compositions of atmospheric polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in three Chinese cities, Beijing, Chongqing, and Hangzhou. Precision of δ13C measurement by GC/C/ IRMS ranged from 0.4 to 0.7‰, and accuracy ranged from 0.0 to 0.4‰. δ13C of atmospheric PAHs ranged from -22.9 to -27.2‰ for Chongqing, from -24.2 to -26.8‰ for Hangzhou, from -21.1 to -26.1‰ for Beijing summer and from -22.5 to -25.7‰ for Beijing winter. Atmospheric PAHs of both Chongqing and Hangzhou become more depleted in 13C with increasing PAH molecular weight. On the other hand, atmospheric PAHs in Beijing become more enriched in 13C with increasing PAH molecular weight. The difference of isotopic signature between "Beijing" and "Chongqing + Hangzhou" is statistically significant (t-test, P < 0.05). The isotopic trends of PAHs in Chongqing and Hangzhou are similar to that obtained from fluidized-bed coal combustion particles, whereas the isotopic trend of PAHs in Beijing air is similar to that obtained from automotive exhaust particles. According to this observation, it appears that automotive exhausts significantly affect PAH loading to Beijing air and that coal combustion is the main cause of PAH existence in Chongqing and Hangzhou air. While the isotopic signatures can classify the three Chinese cities into two groups, the molecular profiles do not show a clear trend among them. This can be explained by the following description: carbon isotopic signatures of PAHs are expected to have source- and/or combustion field-specific values and patterns mainly, whereas molecular compositions of PAHs depend on various factors such as source material, burning temperature, air/fuel ratio, and environmental alteration during transport.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1737-1745
Number of pages9
JournalOrganic Geochemistry
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2002 Dec 1


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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