Contribution of biomass burning to atmospheric polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons at three European background sites. Academic Article uri icon


  • Radiocarbon analysis of atmospheric polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from three background areas in Sweden, Croatia, and Greece was performed to apportion their origin between fossil and biomass combustion. Diagnostic ratios of PAHs implied that wood and coal combustion was relatively more important in the northern European site, while combustion of fossil fuels was the dominant source of PAHs to the two central-southern European background sites. The radiocarbon content (delta14C) of atmospheric PAHs in Sweden ranged between -388 per thousand and -381 per thousand, while more depleted values were observed for Greece (-914 per thousand) and Croatia (-888 per thousand). Using a 14C isotopic mass balance model it was calculated that biomass burning contributes nearly 10% of the total PAH burden in the studied southern European atmosphere with fossil fuel combustion making up the 90% balance. In contrast, biomass burning contributes about 50% of total PAHs in the atmosphere at the Swedish site. Our results suggest that the relative contributions of biomass burning and fossil fuels to atmospheric PAHs may differ considerably between countries, and therefore, different national control strategies might be needed if a further reduction of these pollutants is to be achieved on a continental-global scale.

publication date

  • May 1, 2005