Benzo(a)pyrene in particulate matter

Kaminofen mit Feuer und BrennholzkorbClick to enlarge
Benzo(a)pyrene occurs when wood is combusted incompletely in firesides and ovens.
Source: Marco2811 /

Benzo(a)pyrene is a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon. It is used as a marker for the carcinogenic risk of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in ambient air.

Table of Contents


Emission sources

Benzo(a)pyrene is produced when organic material, e.g. wood or coal is combusted incompletely. Main sources are domestic ovens and firesides. Benzo(a)pyrene is also emitted by traffic when fuels are burnt.


Health risks

Bound to particulate matter polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons can be inhaled or obtained from food. Then they are deposited in the fatty tissue. Many of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, as well as Benzo(a)pyrene are carcinogenic, whereat harmful products are formed as products of metabolism. Taken up by respiration mainly the lungs are damaged.


Air quality standards

There is an Europe-wide target value of 1 ng/m³ as annual mean that is valid since 1 January 2013.


Air pollution

Since 2007 the ambient air concentrations of Benzo(a)pyrene of most of the stations have been below the target value. Only 12 times, in several years, the concentrations have been above the target value. Three out of those four stations concerned are located close to traffic.
The highest values are monitored close to traffic or industry. The average pollution at urban stations is approx. 0.3 ng/m³, a bit lower than close to traffic or industry. In rural areas the pollution (approx. 0.2 ng/m³) is lower than in the cities. Even lower concentrations are measured at the very remote stations of the Environment Agency (0.1 ng/m³). In other European countries the concentrations are significantly higher than in Germany.

Benzo(a)pyrene in particulate matter - annual mean values 2007 - 2019
Benzo(a)pyrene in particulate matter - annual mean values 2007 - 2019
Source: Umweltbundesamt II 4.2 mit Daten der Messnetze der Länder und des Bundes

Benzo(a)pyrene in particulate matter - Annual tabulation

Here the annual tabulations from 2007 onwards can be found (station-by-station).