Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in urban soils of the megacity Shanghai: occurrence, source apportionment and potential human health risk

Sci Total Environ. 2013 Mar 1;447:80-9. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.12.086. Epub 2013 Jan 31.


A comprehensive investigation was conducted to the urban soil in the megacity Shanghai in order to assess the levels of PAHs and potential risks to human health, to identify and quantitatively assess source contributions to the soil PAHs. A total of 57 soil samples collected in main urban areas of Shanghai, China were analyzed for 26 PAHs including highly carcinogenic dibenzopyrene isomers. The total concentrations ranged from 133 to 8,650 ng g for ΣPAHs and 83.3 to 7,220 ng g for ΣPAHs, with mean values of 2420 and 1,970 ng g, respectively. DBalP and DBaeP may serve as markers for diesel vehicle emission, while DBahP is a probable marker of coke tar as distinct from diesel emissions. Six sources in Shanghai urban area were identified by PMF model; their relative contributions to the total soil PAH burden were 6% for petrogenic sources, 21% for coal combustion, 13% for biomass burning, 16% for creosote, 23% for coke tar related sources and 21% for vehicular emissions, respectively. The benzo[a]pyrene equivalent (BaP) concentrations ranged from 48.9-2,580 ng g for ΣPAHs, 7.02-869 ng g for ΣPAHs and 35.7-1,990 ng g for ΣDBPs. The BaP concentrations of ΣDBPs made up 72% of ΣPAHs. Nearly half of the soil samples showed concentrations above the safe BaP value of 600 ng g. Exposure to these soils through direct contact probably poses a significant risk to human health from carcinogenic effects of soil PAHs. The index of additive cancer risk (IACR) values in almost one third of urban soil samples were more than the safe value of 1.0, indicating these urban soil PAHs in the study area may pose a potential threat to potable groundwater water quality from leaching of carcinogenic PAH mixtures from soil.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Benzo(a)pyrene
  • Carcinogens / analysis
  • China
  • Cities
  • Coal
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Groundwater
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Public Health
  • Risk Factors
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Vehicle Emissions
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis


  • Carcinogens
  • Coal
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Vehicle Emissions
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Benzo(a)pyrene