Particulate matter (PM), also known as aerosols, is defined as a suspension of liquid droplet and/or solid particles in the atmosphere. Generally ambient PM are conglomerates of many pollutant subclasses, potentially comprising of different organic and inorganic species. Particulate matter is one of the extremely important criteria air pollutants, which is listed under the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment, together with ozone (O3), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX), lead (Pb) and carbon monoxide (CO) (USEPA). PM contributes to smog formation and visibility degradation in urban atmosphere, and influences the surface albedo by decreasing the amount of heat reaching the ground (Seinfeld and Pandis 2006). More importantly, numerous health studies have demonstrated that exposure to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) has strong associations with significant impacts on human health (Li et al. 2003a; Pope et al. 2004; Delfino et al. 2005; Campbell et al. 2005; Morgan et al. 2011; Ritz et al. 2002; Wilhelm and Ritz 2005). Therefore, understanding the physical, chemical and toxicological characteristics of ambient PM is significantly essential in allowing for more effective regulatory control strategies, more targeted air quality standards, and ultimately, reductions in population exposure to harmful types of airborne PM.
Typically, ambient PM are directly emitted from different type of sources (defined as primary aerosol), or formed by gas-to-particle partition process (defined as secondary aerosol) during photo-chemical reaction in the atmosphere. Both natural and anthropogenic sources contribute to primary aerosol in ambient air. Natural sources include wood smoke, volcanic activities, sea spray and etc. (Seinfeld ...
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...ion of ambient PM is very complex and highly dependent on a number of factors including regional meteorology, topography, and natural (i.e. sea-salt) and anthropogenic (i.e. vehicular emissions) source strengths of PM, all of which may vary in short periods of time (Cheung et al. 2011; Daher et al. 2013; Sardar et al. 2005). For instance, urban ambient PM components usually include metals, trace elements, black carbon, inorganic salts and a large number of organic species (Cheung et al., 2011). Due to the complex composition of ambient PM, assessing which PM constituents are linked to adverse health outcomes as well as the exact mechanisms leading to these outcomes remains an active topic of research. Therefore, ambient PM measurement in high time resolution becomes critical to identify the toxicologically relevant PM species, as well as the sources of these species.
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