Magnetic Approaches to Measuring and Mitigating Airborne Particulate Pollution

Monday, 15 December 2014: 11:50 AM
Barbara Maher, University of Lancaster, Lancaster, LA1, United Kingdom
Human exposure to airborne particulate matter (PM) generates adverse human health impacts at all life stages from the embryonic to the terminal, including damage to respiratory and cardiovascular health, and neurodevelopment and cognitive function. Detailed understanding of the causal links between PM exposure and specific health impacts, and possible means to reduce PM exposure require knowledge of PM concentrations, compositions and sources at the fine-scale; i.e. beyond the current resolution of spatially-sparse conventional PM monitoring, non-unique elemental analyses, or poorly-validated PM modelling.

Magnetically-ordered iron oxide minerals appear to be a ubiquitous component of urban PM. These minerals derive partly from the presence of iron impurities in fuels, which form, upon combustion, a non-volatile residue, often dominated by magnetite, within glassy, spherical condensates. Iron-rich, magnetic PM also arises from abrasion from vehicle components, including disk brakes, and road dust. The ubiquity and diversity of these magnetic PM phases, and the speed and sensitivity of magnetic analyses (down to trace concentrations), makes possible rapid, cost-effective magnetic characterization and quantification of PM, a field of study which has developed rapidly across the globe over the last 2 decades.

Magnetic studies of actively-sampled PM, on filters, and passively-sampled PM, on tree leaves and other depositional surfaces, can be used to: monitor and map at high spatial resolution ambient PM concentrations; address the controversial issue of the efficacy of PM capture by vegetation; and add a new, discriminatory dimension to PM source apportionment.