Spatial and seasonal atmospheric PAH deposition patterns and sources in Rhode Island

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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) enter the environment through various combustion processes and can travel long distances via atmospheric transport. Here, atmospheric PAH deposition was measured in six locations throughout Rhode Island using passive atmospheric bulk-deposition samplers for three years. The measurements were evaluated using two source-specific PAH isomer signatures, a multivariate receptor model, and an innovative contamination index that is weighted based on PAH contamination, number of detected compounds, and toxicity. Urban areas had significantly higher deposition rates (up to 2261 μg m-2 yr-1 ∑PAH) compared to peri-urban, coastal, and rural areas (as low as 73.6 μg m-2 yr-1 ∑PAH). In fall and winter, PAH deposition was up to 10 times higher compared to summer/spring. On an annual basis a total of 3.64 t yr-1 ∑PAH (2256.9 μg yr-1 m-2 ∑PAH) are estimated to be deposited atmospherically onto Rhode Island. Both, the analysis using isomer ratios and the statistical analysis using positive matrix factorization agreed on source identification. Overall gasoline, petrodiesel, and oil combustion sources were identified in all samples year-round while wood combustion associated PAH deposition was only detected during the cold season.

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Atmospheric Environment