A Review on the Abundance, Distribution and Eco-Biological Risks of PAHs in the Key Environmental Matrices of South Asia

  • Naima Hamid
  • Jabir Hussain SyedEmail author
  • Atif Kamal
  • Faiqa Aziz
  • Sundas Tanveer
  • Usman Ali
  • Alessandra Cincinelli
  • Athanasios Katsoyiannis
  • Ishwar Chandra Yadav
  • Jun Li
  • Riffat Naseem MalikEmail author
  • Gan Zhang
Part of the Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology book series (RECT, volume 240)


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are consistently posing high risks to human/biota in developing countries of South Asia where domestic areas are exposed to biomass burning and commercial/industrial activities. This review article summarized the available data on PAHs occurrence, distribution, potential sources and their possible risks in the key environmental matrices (i.e., Air, Soil/Sediments, Water) from South Asian Region (SAR). Available literature reviewed suggested that PAHs concentration levels were strongly influenced by the monsoonal rainfall system in the region and it has been supported by many studies that higher concentrations were measured during the winter season as compared to summer. Biomass burning (household and brick kilns activities), open burning of solid wastes and industrial and vehicular emissions were categorized as major sources of PAHs in the region. Regional comparison revealed that the contamination levels of PAHs in the water bodies and soil/sediments in SAR remained higher relatively to the reports from other regions of the world. Our findings highlight that there is still a general lack of reliable data, inventories and research studies addressing PAHs related issues in the context of environmental and human health in SAR. There is therefore a critical need to improve the current knowledge base, which should build upon the research experience from other regions which have experienced similar situations in the past. Further research into these issues in South Asia is considered vital to help inform future policies/control strategies as already successfully implemented in other countries.


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons Occurrence Distribution Biomass burning Risk assessment Vehicular emissions South Asia 



JH Syed is highly thankful to Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) for PIFI (2015PE029). This work was supported by the NSFC (41550110225).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing financial interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Naima Hamid
    • 1
  • Jabir Hussain Syed
    • 2
    Email author
  • Atif Kamal
    • 1
  • Faiqa Aziz
    • 1
  • Sundas Tanveer
    • 1
  • Usman Ali
    • 1
  • Alessandra Cincinelli
    • 3
    • 4
  • Athanasios Katsoyiannis
    • 5
  • Ishwar Chandra Yadav
    • 2
  • Jun Li
    • 2
  • Riffat Naseem Malik
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gan Zhang
    • 2
  1. 1.Environmental Biology and Ecotoxicology Laboratory, Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Biological SciencesQuaid-I-Azam UniversityIslamabadPakistan
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Organic Geochemistry, Guangzhou Institute of GeochemistryChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  3. 3.Department of Chemistry “Ugo Schiff”University of FlorenceSesto FiorentinoItaly
  4. 4.CNR, Istituto per la Dinamica dei Processi AmbientaliVeneziaItaly
  5. 5.Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) – FRAM High North Research Centre on Climate and the EnvironmentTromsøNorway

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