Characterization of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) associated with fine aerosols in ambient atmosphere of high-altitude urban environment in Sikkim Himalaya


Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) compounds are ubiquitous in ambient air due to their persistence, carcinogenicity, and mutagenicity. Gangtok being one of the cleanest cities in India located in Eastern Himalayan region, witnesses high developmental activities with enhanced urbanization affecting the ambient air quality. The present study aims to measure PM2.5 and PAHs in the ambient atmosphere of the Sikkim Himalaya to understand the influence of natural and anthropogenic activities on aerosol loading and their chemical characteristics. The PM2.5 samples were collected and analysed for the duration from Jan 2020 to Feb 2021.The seasonal mean concentrations of PM2.5 and PAHs were observed to be high during autumn and low during summer season. Overall, the annual mean concentration of PM2.5 was found higher than the prescribed limit of World Health Organization and National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The concentration of the 16 individual PAHs were found to be highest during autumn season (55.26 ± 37.15 ng/m3). Among the different PAHs, the annual mean concentration of fluorene (3.29 ± 4.07 ng/m3) and naphthalene (1.15 ± 3.76 ng/m3) were found to be the highest and lowest, respectively. The Molecular Diagnostic Ratio (MDR) test reveals higher contribution from heavy traffic activities throughout the winter and autumn seasons. The other possible sources identified over the region are fossil fuel combustion, and biomass burning. The multivariate statistical analysis (Multifactor Principal Component Analysis) also indicates a strong association between PM2.5 /PAHs and meteorological variables across the region in different seasons. The precipitation and wind pattern during the study period suggests that major contribution of the PM2.5 and PAHs were from local sources, with minimal contribution from long-range transport. The findings are important for comprehending the trends of PAH accumulation over a high-altitude urban area, and for developing sustainable air quality control methods in the Himalayan region.

Authors: Khushboo Sharma, Pramod Kumar, Jayant Sharma, Satkar Deep Thapa, Aparna Gupta, Rajeev Rajak, Bidyutjyoti Baruah, Amit Prakash, Rakesh Kumar Ranjan
; Full Source: The Science of the total environment 2023 Feb 3;161987. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.161987.