Abstract The application of a chemical mass balance air pollution model to ambient measurements of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) is presented. Sixteen air samples were collected at seven sites in a suburban area in Taiwan and analyzed for the concentration of 21 compounds between July 2001 and September 2001. Each ambient sample was evaluated for the PAH contribution from six sources (heavy oil combustion, natural gas combustion, coal combustion, diesel combustion, vehicles and municipal solid waste incinerator). Average predictions agree well with the emission inventory. By this method, the average contributions are 49%, 14%, 22%, 12%, and 2% from vehicles, heavy oil combustion, natural gas combustion, coal combustion and diesel combustion at these seven receptors. By far, vehicles are the major PAH emission sources and municipal solid waste incinerator is a minor contributor. The calculated result of particulate PAHs is compared with that of total (gaseous and particulate) PAHs. The estimate based on total PAHs is better than the estimate based on particulate PAHs only. Contributions of eight low reactive PAHs for the same emission sources and receptors were calculated. Atmospheric reactivity seems not a problem for source apportionment in this study.