Large PAHs detected in fine particulate matter emitted from light-duty gasoline vehicles

Sarah G. Riddle, Chris A. Jakober, Michael A. Robert, Thomas M. Cahill, M. Judith Charles, Michael J. Kleeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Emission factors of large PAHs with 6-8 aromatic rings with molecular weights (MW) of 300-374 were measured from 16 light-duty gasoline-powered vehicles (LDGV) and one heavy-duty diesel-powered vehicle (HDDV) operated under realistic driving conditions. LDGVs emitted PAH isomers of MW 302, 326, 350, and 374, while the HDDV did not emit these compounds. This suggests that large PAHs may be useful tracers for the source apportionment of gasoline-powered motor vehicle exhaust in the atmosphere. Emission rates of MW 302, 326, and 350 isomers from LDGVs equipped with three-way catalysts (TWCs) ranged from 2 to 10 (μg L-1 fuel burned), while emissions from LDGVs classified as low emission vehicles (LEVs) were almost a factor of 10 lower. MW 374 PAH isomers were not quantified due to the lack of a quantification-grade standard. The reduced emissions associated with the LEVs are likely attributable to improved vapor recovery during the "cold-start" phase of the Federal Test Procedure (FTP) driving cycle before the catalyst reaches operating temperature. Approximately 2 (μg g-1 PM) of MW 326 and 350 PAH isomer groups were found in the National Institute of Standards and Technology standard reference material (SRM)#1649 (Urban Dust). The pattern of the MW 302, 326, and 350 isomers detected in SRM#1649 qualitatively matched the ratio of these compounds detected in the exhaust of TWC LDGVs suggesting that each gram of Urban Dust SRM contained 5-10 mg of PM originally emitted from gasoline-powered motor vehicles. Large PAHs made up 24% of the total LEV PAH emissions and 39% of the TWC PAH emissions released from gasoline-powered motor vehicles. Recent studies have shown certain large PAH isomers have greater toxicity than benzo[a]pyrene. Even though the specific toxicity measurements on PAHs with MW >302 have yet to be performed, the detection of significant amounts of MW 326 and 350 PAHs in motor vehicle exhaust in the current study suggests that these compounds may pose a significant public health risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8658-8668
Number of pages11
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number38
StatePublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Diesel vehicle
  • Gasoline vehicle
  • Source apportionment
  • Toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Large PAHs detected in fine particulate matter emitted from light-duty gasoline vehicles'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this