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PAHs associated with the leaves of Quercus ilex L.: Extraction, GC-MS analysis, distribution and sources. Assessment of air quality in the Palermo (Italy) area


In this study, the leaves of Quercus ilex L. were selected as possible bioaccumulators of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Quercus is an evergreen plant that occurs widely in both urban and rural areas. Several sites (urban roadside, urban, urban park, suburban and rural) in and around Palermo city were investigated. The purpose of this research was to optimize analytical method for quercus leaves, investigate the degree of contamination in the urban area of Palermo by comparing PAH concentration in leaves of quercus from the several sites, establish distribution patterns and relate them to possible sources of PAHs. To this aim, the 16 recommended as priority pollutants by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and perylene were analyzed. PAHs were positively correlated to atmospheric particulate gravimetrically determined on filters aspiring a known volume of air in the various stations. The analyses have been performed by gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (GC–MS) in selected ion monitoring (SIM) mode. The total PAH content in the samples ranged from 92 to 1454 mgkg 1 d.w. The higher amounts of PAHs detected in leaves of quercus from the urban area of Palermo compared with the control site are diagnostic of air contamination, in particular in the zones with heavy traffic. The determination of PAHs in the leaves of quercus allows us, with very simple and fast procedures, to assess the quality of the air over a longer period, since PAHs are accumulated over the whole lifetime of the leaves, irrespective of atmospheric conditions at the moment of sampling.