Institute of Medical, Pharmaceutical and Health Sciences, Kanazawa University, Kakuma-machi, Kanazawa 920-1192, Japan; Institute of Nature and Environmental Technology, Kanazawa University, Kakuma-machi, Kanazawa 920-1192, Japan. Electronic address: [Email]
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are ubiquitous in the atmosphere and they mostly stem from the imperfect combustion of fossil fuels and biofuels. PAHs are inherently associated with homogenous fine particles or distributed to different-sized particles during the aging of air masses. PAHs carried by fine particles undergo a long-range transport to remote areas while those adsorbed on coarse particles have a shorter lifetime in ambient air. More importantly, PAHs with higher molecular weights tend to be bound with finer particles and can deeply enter the lungs, posing severe health risks to humans. Thus, the environmental fate and health effects of particulate PAHs are strongly size-dependent. This review summarizes the size distributions of particulate PAHs freshly emitted from combustion sources as well as the distribution patterns of PAHs in ambient particles. It was found that PAHs from stationary sources are primarily bound to fine particles, which are slightly larger than particles to which PAHs from mobile sources are bound. In ambient air, particulate PAHs are distributed in larger size modes than those in the combustion fume, and the particle size decreases with PAH molecular weight increasing. The relevant mechanisms and influencing factors of particle size distribution changes are illustrated in this article, which are essentially attributed to combustion and ambient temperature as well as the physical and chemical properties of PAHs. Overall, the study on the particle size distribution of PAHs will contribute for a full understanding of the origin, atmospheric behaviors and health effects of particulate PAHs.