EGU21-11550, updated on 13 Jun 2024
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Year-long variability of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and their contribution to winter intense pollution events in the urban environment of Athens, Greece

Irini Tsiodra1,2, Kalliopi Tavernaraki1, Aikaterini Bougiatioti3, Georgios Grivas3, Maria Apostolaki1, Despina Paraskevopoulou2,3,4, Alexandra Gogou5, Konstantinos Parinos5, Maria Tsagkaraki1, Pavlos Zarmpas1, Athanasios Nenes2,4, and Nikolaos Mihalopoulos1,3
Irini Tsiodra et al.
  • 1Environmental Chemical Processes Laboratory, Department of Chemistry, University of Crete, Heraklion,71003, Greece
  • 2Institute for Chemical Engineering Sciences, Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas, Patras, GR-26504, Greece
  • 3Institute for Environmental Research and Sustainable Development, National Observatory of Athens, Lofos Koufou, P. Penteli, Athens, 15236, Greece
  • 4School of Architecture, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, CH-1015, Switzerland
  • 5Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, Institute of Oceanography, 190 13 Anavyssos, Attiki, Greece

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are organic pollutants with proven mutagenic and carcinogenic potential that originate from incomplete combustion, and partition to fine particulate matter. Nitro-PAHs & oxy-PAHs are oxidation products of PAHs with increased toxicity compared to their parent members and may reveal useful information about the aging and oxidation processes of PAHs.

In this study, we investigate the seasonal profiles of 31 PAHs and select oxidized forms such as nitro PAHs & quinones in Athens, Greece to understand their sources, levels, toxicity and impacts. PAHs levels were found to be significantly higher during winter, particularly during intense pollution episodes, compared to the other seasons. Chemical markers linked to biomass burning (BB) emissions are found to correlate well with the total amount of PAHs (ΣPAHs) during wintertime, strongly indicating that BB emissions are a significant source of PAHs. Positive Matrix Factorization (PMF) analysis showed that more than 50% of ΣPAHs originate from BB emissions and that a “factor” (composed of a specific mixture of PAHs) characterizes biomass burning emissions – and can potentially be used as a tracer. Analysis of the PMF series suggests that BB aerosol is much more carcinogenic than the effects of gasoline and diesel combustion combined. Finally, the exposure impact during winter is 9 times higher compared with the other seasons.


This work has been funded by the European Research Council, CoG-2016 project PyroTRACH (726165) H2020-EU.1.1. – Excellent. We also acknowledge support by the “PANhellenic infrastructure for Atmospheric Composition and climatE change” (MIS 5021516) implemented under the Action “Reinforcement of the Research and Innovation Infrastructure ”, funded by the Operational Programme “Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship and Innovation” (NSRF 2014-2020) and co-financed by Greece and the European Union (European Regional Development Fund).


How to cite: Tsiodra, I., Tavernaraki, K., Bougiatioti, A., Grivas, G., Apostolaki, M., Paraskevopoulou, D., Gogou, A., Parinos, K., Tsagkaraki, M., Zarmpas, P., Nenes, A., and Mihalopoulos, N.: Year-long variability of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and their contribution to winter intense pollution events in the urban environment of Athens, Greece, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-11550,, 2021.

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