Human health burdens associated with long-term exposure to particulate matter (PM) are substantial. The metrics currently recommended by the World Health Organization for quantification of long-term health-relevant PM are the annual average PM10 and PM2.5 mass concentrations, with no low concentration threshold. However, within an annual average, there is substantial variation in the composition of PM associated with different sources. To inform effective mitigation strategies, therefore, it is necessary to quantify the conditions that contribute to annual average PM10 and PM2.5 (rather than just short-term episodic concentrations). PM10, PM2.5, and speciated water-soluble inorganic, carbonaceous, heavy metal and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon components are concurrently measured at the two UK European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP) ‘supersites’ at Harwell (SE England) and Auchencorth Moss (SE Scotland). In this work, statistical analyses of these measurements are integrated with air-mass back trajectory data to characterise the ‘chemical climate’ associated with the long-term health-relevant PM metrics at these sites. Specifically, the contributions from different PM concentrations, months, components and geographic regions are detailed.

The analyses at these sites provide policy-relevant conclusions on mitigation of (i) long-term health-relevant PM in the spatial domain for which these sites are representative, and (ii) the contribution of regional background PM to long-term health-relevant PM. Mitigation requires multilateral action, across species (and hence source sectors), both nationally and internationally; there is no dominant determinant of the long-term PM metrics to target.

This research was carried out by:

  • NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Penicuik
  • School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh
  • Ricardo Energy & Environment
  • Bureau Veritas
  • Environment Division, National Physical Laboratory

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