Soil pollution by PAHs in urban soils: a comparison of three European cities

E. Morillo, A.S. Romero, C. Maqueda, L. Madrid, F. Ajmone-Marsan, H. Grcman, Christine Davidson, A.S. Hursthouse, J. Villaverde

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198 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this study was to determine the degree of contamination with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in samples of urban soil from three European cities: Glasgow (UK), Torino (Italy) and Ljubljana (Slovenia). Fifteen PAHs (naphthalene, acenaphthene, fluorene, phenanthrene, anthracene, fluoranthene, pyrene, benzo[a]anthracene, chrysene, benzo[b]fluoranthene, benzo[k]fluoranthene, benzo[a]pyrene, dibenzo[a,h]anthracene, benzo[g,h,i]perylene, indeno[1,2,3-c,d]pyrene) were measured in urban soil samples, using harmonised sampling, sample extraction and analyte quantification methods. Although the mean concentration of each PAH in urban soils of each city showed a wide range of values, high levels of contamination were only evident in Glasgow, where the sum of concentrations of 15 PAHs was in the range 1487–51822 μg kg−1, cf. ranges in the other two cities were about ten-fold lower (89.5–4488 μg kg−1). The three predominant PAHs were phenanthrene, fluoranthene and pyrene, with the sum of these compounds about 40% of the total PAH content. These data, together with some special molecular indices based on ratios of selected PAHs, suggest pyrogenic origins, especially motor vehicle exhausts, to be the major sources of PAHs in urban soils of the three cities. The largest concentrations for PAHs were often found in sites close to the historic quarters of the cities. Overall, the different climatic conditions, the organic carbon contents of soil, and the source apportionment were the dominant factors affecting accumulation of PAHs in soil.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1001-1008
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Environmental Monitoring
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • soil pollution
  • contamination
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • PAHs


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