Profile of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in digested sewage sludge

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Research Article

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Environmental Technology (United Kingdom)


One of the methods of sludge disposal in cities is its use as an amendment in adjoining agricultural soil. Contaminants in sludge can, however, nullify the benefits. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a class of persistent organic pollutants, if present, can pose health risks by virtue of their carcinogenic potential and persistence in soil. The present study deals with profile analysis of PAHs in digested sewage sludge of a megacity, Delhi. Mean concentration of the sum of 16 PAHs in the sludge from 5 sewage treatment plants (STPs) was 20.67 ± 4.14 mg/kg, dry weight (dw). Carcinogenic PAHs represented ∼47% of the total PAHs. Benzo[g,h,i]perylene recorded the highest mean concentration followed by dibenzo[a,h]anthracene. Low molecular weight PAHs and high molecular weight PAHs contributed 19% and 81% to total PAHs content respectively. Principal component analysis identified the major sources of PAHs in sludge as coal and natural gas combustion. Wood combustion, oil and oil derivatives are the other identified sources. The observed PAH levels in sludge from selected STPs of Delhi were found to violate the limit values proposed by the European Union and the US legislation for application in agriculture.

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