Discovery of emerging sulfur-containing PAHs in PM2.5: Contamination profiles and potential health risks

Yanhao Zhang, Yuanyuan Song, Yi Jie Chen, Yanyan Chen, Yan Lu, Ruijin Li, Chuan Dong, Di Hu, Zongwei Cai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


We reported the discovery and identification of emerging sulfur-containing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, namely polycyclic aromatic sulfur heterocycles (PASHs), in PM2.5 collected from two typical regions of China, Taiyuan and Guangzhou. Until now, there is no research on contamination status, sources and potential health risks of this unexpected group of organic contaminants in PM2.5. High atmospheric concentrations (ng m−3) and significant time-dependent variations were determined in PM2.5 of Taiyuan from 2017 to 2018. Coal combustion/secondary formation and traffic emission/secondary formation were apportioned as possible pollution sources for the PM2.5-bound PASHs in Taiyuan and Guangzhou, respectively. Dithiothreitol and cell viability assays were applied for evaluations of PASH-induced reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and cell toxicity based on the determined real exposure levels for adults. The results illustrated that PASHs in PM2.5 possibly caused oxidative stress and inhibition of human bronchial epithelial cells in seriously polluted regions such as Taiyuan, suggesting that the pollutant-induced health concerns may need more investigations. This study provides new insights into PM2.5 pollution, and is beneficial for the development of effective contamination control strategies and reduction of risks on public health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number125795
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Early online date1 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

User-Defined Keywords

  • Contamination profiles
  • Health risks
  • PM
  • Polycyclic aromatic sulfur heterocycles
  • Toxicity


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