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Environmental Pollution


The release of unburnt coal particles and associated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) may cause adverse impacts on the environment. This study assessed variations in the concentration and composition of PAHs in a set of fifty coal samples from eleven coal basins worldwide. The maximum PAH concentrations at high volatile bituminous rank were recorded in samples from a single basin. Considering the entire sample, the highest PAH concentrations were in fact found outside of this rank range, suggesting that the maceral composition and thus the coal's origin also influenced PAH concentrations. The examination of the PAH compositions revealed that alkylated 2-3 ring PAHs remain dominant compounds irrespective of coal rank or origin. Multivariate analysis based on PAH and maceral content, bulk and maturity parameters allowed the recognition of seven groups with different rank and origin within the coal sample set.


We showed that less mature coal samples are dominated by 2-3 ring PAHs with C2-C3 methylated moieties (compounds less water soluble compared to the C0-C1 methylated counterparts) and therefore believe that these coals can create less risks regarding the mobilization of PAHs, compared to the more mature samples, if there is a prolong exposure of coals to aqueous environments. Nevertheless, this does reflect the overall environmental risks, since less mature coals (such as subbituminous coals) account other potentially toxic compounds than PAHs, such as, biphenyls, N-, O-,and S-containing heterocyclic compounds, aromatic amines, various non-aromatic compounds, and phthalates, that may be mobilized and transported via co-eluting humic-like substance.


Published Citation

Laumann S., Micić V., Kruge M.A., Achten C., Sachsenhofer R.F., Schwarzbauer J., Hofmann T. (2011) Variations in concentrations and compositions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in coals related to the coal rank and origin. Environmental Pollution 159:2690-2697.