Global atmospheric emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from 1960 to 2008 and future predictions

Environ Sci Technol. 2013 Jun 18;47(12):6415-24. doi: 10.1021/es400857z. Epub 2013 May 31.


Global atmospheric emissions of 16 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from 69 major sources were estimated for a period from 1960 to 2030. Regression models and a technology split method were used to estimate country and time specific emission factors, resulting in a new estimate of PAH emission factor variation among different countries and over time. PAH emissions in 2007 were spatially resolved to 0.1° × 0.1° grids based on a newly developed global high-resolution fuel combustion inventory (PKU-FUEL-2007). The global total annual atmospheric emission of 16 PAHs in 2007 was 504 Gg (331-818 Gg, as interquartile range), with residential/commercial biomass burning (60.5%), open-field biomass burning (agricultural waste burning, deforestation, and wildfire, 13.6%), and petroleum consumption by on-road motor vehicles (12.8%) as the major sources. South (87 Gg), East (111 Gg), and Southeast Asia (52 Gg) were the regions with the highest PAH emission densities, contributing half of the global total PAH emissions. Among the global total PAH emissions, 6.19% of the emissions were in the form of high molecular weight carcinogenic compounds and the percentage of the carcinogenic PAHs was higher in developing countries (6.22%) than in developed countries (5.73%), due to the differences in energy structures and the disparities of technology. The potential health impact of the PAH emissions was greatest in the parts of the world with high anthropogenic PAH emissions, because of the overlap of the high emissions and high population densities. Global total PAH emissions peaked at 592 Gg in 1995 and declined gradually to 499 Gg in 2008. Total PAH emissions from developed countries peaked at 122 Gg in the early 1970s and decreased to 38 Gg in 2008. Simulation of PAH emissions from 2009 to 2030 revealed that PAH emissions in developed and developing countries would decrease by 46-71% and 48-64%, respectively, based on the six IPCC SRES scenarios.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons