Temporal and spatial variations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon concentrations around a coke oven plant

Anna Stella, Maria Teresa Piccardo, Mauro Pala, Daniele Balducci, Massimo Cipolla, Marcello Ceppi, Federico Valerio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


From 1995 to 2004, in Genoa, Italy, daily concentrations of twelve polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were measured in particulate phase (PM10), around a coke oven plant in operation from the 1950s and closed in 2002. The study permitted to identify the coke oven as the main PAH source in Genoa, causing constant exceeding of benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) air quality target (1.0 ng/m3) in the urban area till 1,900 meters distance downwind the plant. For this reason the plant was closed. Distance and daily hours downwind the coke plant were the main sources of variability of toxic BaP equivalent (BaPeq) concentrations and equations that best fitted these variables were experimentally obtained. During full plant activity, annual average BaPeq concentrations, measured in the three sampling sites aligned downwind to the summer prevalent winds, were: 85 ng/m3 at 40 m (site 2, industrial area), 13.2 ng/m3 at 300 m (site 3, residential area) and 5.6 ng/m3 at 575 m (site 4, residential area).Soon after the coke oven's closure (February 2002) BaPeq concentrations (annual average) measured in residential area, decreased drastically: 0.2 ng/m3 at site 3, 0.4 ng/m3 at site 4. Comparing 1998 and 2003 data, BaPeq concentrations decreased 97.6% in site 3 and 92.8% in site 4.Samples collected at site 3, during the longest downwind conditions, provided a reliable PAH profile of fugitive coke oven emissions. This profile was significantly different from the PAH profile, contemporary found at site 5, near the traffic flow.This study demonstrates that risk assessment based only on distance of residences from a coke plant can be heavily inaccurate and confirmed that seasonal variability of BaPeq concentrations and high variability of fugitive emissions of PAHs during coke oven activities require at least one year of frequent and constant monitoring (10-15 samples each month).Around a coking plant, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), concentrations depend mainly on downwind hours and distance. Equations that best fit these variables were experimentally calculated. Fugitive emissions of an old coke oven did not comply with the threshold BAP air concentration proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 1,900 m distance. The study identified the PAH profile of fugitive emissions of a coke oven, statistically different from the profile of traffic emissions. During its activity, in the Genoa residential area, 575 m away from the plant, 92.8% of found PAHs was due to coke oven emission only.Supplemental materials are available for this article. Go to the publisher's online edition of the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association for information about samples analyses, statistical analyses and regression models figure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1003-1011
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the Air and Waste Management Association
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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