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Trends and sources of PAHs to urban lakes and streams

January 1, 2017

Over the past few decades, concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been increasing in the sediments of many U.S. urban lakes and streams. These upward trends contrast those of legacy pollutants, such as lead, PCBs, and DDT, which were restricted or banned in the 1970s. Trends of these legacy pollutants have been downward since they were banned (Figures 1 and 2).

Understanding the causes of trends in PAHs is complicated by their many natural and anthropogenic sources. PAHs are contained in fossil fuels and also are produced when materials that contain carbon, including oil, coal, gasoline, and diesel fuel, are heated or burned. Although many studies have considered vehicle emissions as a potential source of urban PAHs, estimated emissions of PAHs from vehicles in the United States declined almost ten-fold from 1971 (32,000 metric tons, or Mg) to 2000 (3,500 Mg), and this decline continues. Vehicle emissions therefore cannot account for the upward trend found in urban lake sediments – there must be some other primary source or sources of the upward trend in PAHs.

Publication Year 2017
Title Trends and sources of PAHs to urban lakes and streams
Authors Peter C. Van Metre, Barbara Mahler
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Lakeline
Index ID 70201709
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization WMA - Earth System Processes Division