Particle-phase concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in ambient air of rural residential areas in southern Germany

Air Qual Atmos Health. 2010 Jun;3(2):103-116. doi: 10.1007/s11869-009-0057-8. Epub 2010 Jan 9.


An important source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in residential areas, particularly in the winter season, is the burning process when wood is used for domestic heating. The target of this study was to investigate the particle-phase PAH composition of ambient samples in order to assess the influence of wood combustion on air quality in residential areas. PM(10) samples (particulate matter <10 mum) were collected during two winter seasons at two rural residential areas near Stuttgart in Germany. Samples were extracted using toluene in an ultrasonic bath and subsequently analysed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Twenty-one PAH compounds were detected and quantified. The PAH fingerprints of different wood combustion emissions were found in significant amounts in ambient samples and high correlations between total PAHs and other wood smoke tracers were found, indicating the dominant influence of wood combustion on air quality in residential areas. Carcinogenic PAHs were detected in high concentrations and contributed 49% of the total PAHs in the ambient air. To assess the health risk, we investigated the exposure profile of individual PAHs. The findings suggest that attention should be focused on using the best combustion technology available to reduce emissions from wood-fired heating during the winter in residential areas.