National Physical Laboratory

Novel analysis of air quality data reveals pollution sources

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are organic compounds, some of which are toxic and carcinogenic. They are produced from the incomplete burning of carbon containing fuels and their measurement at air quality network stations across the UK is important both for public health and environmental protection.

NPL scientists Andrew Brown and Richard Brown have recently published three papers on PAHs in ambient air in key peer-reviewed environmental journals:

Correlations in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) concentrations in UK ambient air and implications for source apportionment
Journal of Environmental Monitoring, 2012, 14, 2072-2082

Principal component analysis as an outlier detection tool for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon concentrations in ambient air
Water, Air, & Soil Pollution, 2012, 223, 3807-3816

Assessment of the effect of degradation by atmospheric gaseous oxidants on measured annual average benzo[a]pyrene mass concentrations
Chemosphere, 2012, doi:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2012.07.044

An air quality network station in Hazelrigg, Lancashire
An air quality network station in Hazelrigg, Lancashire

The first of these publications provides a novel insight into the different sources of PAHs at air quality monitoring stations and reveals some new pollution climates in the UK. The second paper develops a method for identifying outliers in complex datasets from air quality networks, for example when one or more of the PAHs are at unusually high concentrations with respect to the others. The third publication assesses the extent that the chemical degradation of PAHs sampled on filters affects their measured concentrations.

This work provides added value to the data obtained by the UK PAH Monitoring and Analysis Network, which NPL has operated for Defra since October 2010, and strongly positions the UK to meet the future requirements of EU air quality directives.

NPL has also been recently awarded UKAS Testing accreditation for the analysis of PAHs in ambient air

More on NPL's work on Environmental Measurement

More on Air Quality Networks

For further information, please contact Andrew Brown

Last Updated: 4 Mar 2013
Created: 20 Aug 2012