Occurrence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in air and soil surrounding a coal-fired thermal power plant in the south-west coast of India

  • Minal Milind Gune
  • Wan-Li Ma
  • Srimurali Sampath
  • Wenlong Li
  • Yi-Fan Li
  • Harikripa Narayana Udayashankar
  • Keshava BalakrishnaEmail author
  • Zifeng Zhang
Research Article


This investigation focused on the potential sources of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in different matrices and their temporal variations surrounding a coal-fired thermal power plant in India. Samples were collected in different seasons for 1 year. Gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC-MS) was used to perform the measurement of 16 priority PAHs. Average PAH concentrations were ranged from 0.71 to 2.99 ng/m3 in air and 1.59–22.7 ng/g in soil respectively. High levels of PAHs were found in soil compared to air, which indicated deposition in soil. This could be because of the fallout of high-molecular-weight compounds. During the monsoons, PAH concentrations in the air were the lowest compared to the other seasons because of the dilution effect. Phenanthrene, fluoranthene, and pyrenes were dominant in the air, contributing up to 32.5%, 22.7%, and 19.2% of total PAHs, respectively. On the other hand, soils contained fluoranthene (12.3%), pyrene (10.7%), benzo[b]fluoranthene (10%), chrysene (9.82%), and indeno[123-c,d]pyrene (9.64%) compounds. The occurrence of indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene (9.14 ng/g) indicated that the soil is contaminated from fly ash and diesel emissions from the thermal power plant and vehicular emission. The diagnostic ratios, thematic maps, and principal component analysis revealed that the fly ash, diesel emissions from the thermal power plant, vehicles, and biomass burning were the probable sources of PAHs in the study area. The human health risk assessment studies reveal that the soil samples are more prone to carcinogenicity than air samples. As per our knowledge, this is the first report on the impact of PAHs on air and soil in this region.


Passive air sampler PAHs GC-MS Thematic mapping Human health risk assessment India 



Dr. TMA Pai Endowment Chair-Earth Sciences and post-doctoral research grant (to KB) supported this research.

Funding information

This study was supported by the China National Natural Science Foundation Program (No. 41671470 and No. 21577030).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Joint Research Center for Persistent Toxic Substances (IJRC-PTS), State Key Laboratory of Urban Water Resource and EnvironmentHarbin Institute of TechnologyHarbinChina
  2. 2.Department of Civil Engineering, Manipal Institute of TechnologyManipal Academy of Higher EducationManipalIndia
  3. 3.Environmental Science and Technology GroupSRM Research Institute, SRM Institute of Science and TechnologyKattankulathurIndia

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