Study of air-borne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in El Paso, TX

Lynn Marie Santiago, University of Texas at El Paso


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are generated through the incomplete burning of coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage and other organic substances. These chemicals enter the air from various sources such as motor vehicle exhaust, residential and industrial furnaces, tobacco smoke, volcanoes, agricultural burning, residential wood burning, and wildfires. PAHs are readily becoming a concern as more studies are associating them with various types of cancers. ^ In order to study possible emission sources of air-borne PAHs in our area, 19 sites were selected for this study. These test locations represented sites from high traffic to low traffic areas. Air samples were collected and tested for PAHs in the summer and winter seasons. The air sampling was done by collecting air samples with high volume air samplers. Poly-Urethane Foam (PUF) combined with XAD-2 resin was assembled in sampling cartridges, and the air sampler was set to collect air for a period of 24 hours at each site. Post-extraction using Soxhlet extraction followed by Stir Bar Sorptive method coupled with Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectroscopy was performed for PAH analysis. ^ Taking the total PAH concentrations for both summer and winter demonstrated that there were more PAHs present in the winter season than in the summer season. The evidence showed that exhaust emissions from motor vehicles as well as major construction play an important role in the elevated PAH levels observed in this study. The GIS maps showed that PAH concentration levels might have been related to traffic. In addition, PAH diagnostic ratio analysis determined that the main source of pollution could be originating from grass/wood/coal combustion implying that the main source is vehicle emissions. ^ The study provided researchers and the public about the air quality in our region. The results revealed the impact of traffic on producing PAHs. It has gained valuable information in the distribution of PAHs in El Paso and can provide researchers better understanding of PAHs related issues in our area.^

Subject Area

Chemistry, Analytical

Recommended Citation

Santiago, Lynn Marie, "Study of air-borne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in El Paso, TX" (2008). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1453821.