Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in soils and vegetation near an e-waste recycling site in South China: concentration, distribution, source, and risk assessment

Sci Total Environ. 2012 Nov 15;439:187-93. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.08.018. Epub 2012 Oct 12.


This study determined the concentrations of PAHs generated from e-waste recycling activities and their potential impacts on soil, vegetation, and human health. The total PAH concentrations in soils and plants ranged from 127 to 10,600 and 199 to 2420 ng/g, respectively. Samples from an e-waste burning site had higher PAH concentrations than samples from adjacent locations. The PAHs in plants varied with plant species and tissue, and Lactuca sativa L. contained the highest PAHs of all the vegetable species. Various land use types showed different PAH concentrations in soils, with vegetable fields showing higher concentrations than paddy fields. Low molecular weight PAHs, such as phenanthrene, were the predominant congeners in soils, whereas high molecular weight PAHs, such as fluoranthene, pyrene, and benzo[a]anthracene, were enriched in plants relative to soils. Dissimilar PAH profiles in soil and the corresponding vegetation indicated that the uptake of PAHs by plants was selective. A source analysis showed that the contamination by PAHs originated primarily from the open burning of e-waste. The total daily intakes of PAHs and carcinogenic PAHs through vegetables at the e-waste dismantling site were estimated to be 279 and 108 ng/kg/d, respectively, indicating that the consumption of vegetables grown near e-waste recycling sites is risky and should be completely avoided.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • China
  • Electronics* / instrumentation
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Incineration
  • Lettuce / chemistry*
  • Lettuce / drug effects
  • Lettuce / growth & development
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Recycling*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Solid Waste / analysis*


  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Solid Waste