The total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) pollution in regional agricultural soils was investigated. Seventy soil samples collected from surface layers (0-20 cm) and horizons of five selected pedons in the vicinity of a petrochemical complex in Guangzhou, China were analyzed, and the vertical variation and spatial variability of TPH were evaluated. The TPH concentration in top soils around the petrochemical complex ranged from 1,179.3 to 6,354.9 mg kg( - 1), with the average of 2,676.6 mg kg( - 1). Furthermore, significant differences between land-use types showed that the TPH concentration in top soils was strongly influenced by accidental spills. Both the TPH trends in pedons and the identified hot-spot areas also showed that the accidental explosions or burning accidents were mainly responsible for the pollution. The results reported here suggest that the regular monitoring and inspection shall be conducted for safety and to avoid or minimize the accidents, and the effective measures should be taken to remediate the contaminated areas and to assure that the important industrialization of Guangzhou area would not mean human health risks near the petrochemical complex.