New study: particulate matter, black carbon and particle number in European cities

Air pollution by airborne particles in urban air has become in a serious matter of concern due to it has been demonstrated that it affects human health. To reduce or control levels of airborne particles in urban air is complex due to these are constituted by a cocktail of pollutants of different chemical composition, sizes, origin and formation mechanism. For this reason, the concentrations of airborne particles may be measured with different parameters: concentration of particles smaller than 10 microns (PM10), smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) or black carbon or particle number concentrations.
A recent study performed by scientists of the Research Council of Spain (CSIC), the Izaña Atmospheric Research Centre (AEMET), the University of Huelva, Paul Scherrer Institut, EMPA and the University of Birmingham has shown that airborne particles pollution looks in urban air change significantly depending on what particle property is measured. The results show that in all study cities black carbon is the particle property more affected by road traffic intensity. Black carbon could be used as a metric to quantify the benefits on air quality due to decreasing road traffic intensity and/or vehicle exhaust emissions. The behaviour of the particle number concentration differs significantly in different cities and this evidence how different sources and processes contribute to the ultrafine particles concentrations. In urban areas of Central and Northern Europe ultrafine particles appear linked to vehicle exhaust emissions. In cities of Southern Europe, new particle formation by photochemical processes is an additional source of ultrafine particles. A challenge for future is to understand how these different forms of airborne particulate pollution may affect our health.

Publication:C. Reche, X. Querol, A. Alastuey, M. Viana, J. Pey, T. Moreno, S. Rodríguez, Y. González, R. Fernández-Camacho, A. M. Sánchez de la Campa, J. de la Rosa, M. Dall’Osto, A. S. H. Prévot, C. Hueglin, R. M. Harrison, and P. Quincey. Variability of levels of PM, black carbon and particle number concentration in selected European cities. Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 11, 8665–8717, 2011.

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