Background: A number of atmospheric pollutants, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons,
volatile organic compounds, and heavy metals, are monitored by environmental researchers. Among these
atmospheric pollutants, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons play an important role owing to their nature,
which is carcinogenic and toxic to human beings. A number of researchers have monitored these atmospheric
pollutants using active and passive samplers, and a few have monitored their concentrations using biological
specimens such as lichens and mosses.
Method: We reviewed the biomonitoring of atmospheric polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons using various
biological specimens. For this purpose, we examined nearly 35 research papers published since 2013 in various
reputed international journals. From this study, it is clear that biological specimens are useful for monitoring
the concentrations of atmospheric polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
Results: A number of PAHs exist in the atmosphere, but according to the United States Environmental Protection
Agency (US EPA), only the following 16 are considered priority PAHs due to the availability of data and
their carcinogenic and toxic nature: Napthalene (Nap), Acenaphthylene (Acy), Acenaphthene (Acp), Fluorene
(Flu), Phenanthrene (Phe), Anthracene (Ant), Fluoranthene (Flt), Pyrene(Pyr), Benz[a]anthracene (BaA),
Chrysene(Chry), Benzo[b]fluoranthene (BbF), Benzo [k]fluoranthene (BkF), Benzo[a]pyrene(BaP), Indeno
[1,2,3-cd]pyrene(IcdP), Dibenz[a,h]anthracene (DahA), and Benzo[ghi] perylene(BghiP). These PAHs are collected
by various procedures, such as active sampling of total suspended particulate matter and PM2.5, and passive
sampling. Along with these conventional methods, biological species are also used to monitor PAHs. In
this study, we reviewed research papers published since 2013 that described the monitoring of atmospheric
PAHs with a number of biological materials such as lichens, mosses, and other plant materials.
Conclusion: Based on the review, we conclude that several researchers have successfully used biological
materials to monitor the levels of atmospheric PAHs in different countries and from different sampling sites.
However, the data obtained in these studies can be reliable only when they are compared with conventional
instrumental methods. Most of the studies compare their results with those obtained from either active or
passive air sampling methods. The major advantage of biomonitoring studies is the low cost of sampling and
that provides reasonably reliable data.