Sources and Chemical Composition of Atmospheric Fine Particles in Rabigh, Saudi Arabia
Monday, 15 December 2014
Air pollution research in Saudi Arabia and the whole of Middle East is at its inception, making air pollution in the region a significant problem. This study presents the first detailed data on fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations of Black Carbon (BC), ions, and trace metals at Rabigh, Saudi Arabia, and assesses their sources. Results showed several characteristic aspects of air pollution at Rabigh. Daily levels of PM2.5 and BC showed significant temporal variability ranging from 12.2 – 75.9 µg/m3 and 0.39 – 1.31 µg/m3, respectively. More than 90% of the time, the daily PM2.5 exceeded the 24 h WHO guideline of 20 µg/m3. Sulfate, NO3–, and NH4+ dominated the identifiable components. Trace metals with significantly higher concentrations included Si, S, Ca, Al, Fe, Na, Cl, Mg, K, and Ti, with average concentrations of 3.1, 2.2, 1.6, 1.2, 1.1, 0.7, 0.7, 0.5, 0.4 and 0.1 µg/m3, respectively. Based on the Air Quality Index (AQI), there were 44% days of moderate air quality, 33% days of unhealthy air quality for sensitive groups, and 23% days of unhealthy air quality throughout the study period. Two categories of aerosol trace metal sources were defined: anthropogenic (S, V, Cr, Ni, Cu, Zn, Br, Cd, Sb, and Pb) and naturally derived elements (Si, Al, and Fe). The extent of anthropogenic contribution was estimated by the degree of enrichment of these elements compared to the crustal composition. Soil resuspension and/or mobilization is an important source of “natural” elements, while “anthropogenic” elements originate primarily from fossil fuel combustion and industries. Ni and V correlated strongly pointing to combustion of heavy fuel oil as the likely source. A positive matrix factorization (PMF) was used to obtain information about possible sources. Our study highlights the need for stringent laws on PM2.5 emission control to protect human health and the environment.