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Observations of Isocyanate, Amide, Nitrate, and Nitro Compounds From an Anthropogenic Biomass Burning Event Using a ToF‐CIMS

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7687-7704
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number14
Early online date23 Jul 2018
DateAccepted/In press - 14 Feb 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 23 Jul 2018
DatePublished (current) - 27 Jul 2018


Anthropogenic biomass burning is poorly represented in models due to a lack of observational data but represents a significant source of short-lived toxic gases. Guy Fawkes Night (bonfire night) is a regular UK-wide event where open fires are lit and fireworks are set off on 5 November. Previous gas phase studies of bonfire night focus on persistent organic pollutants primarily using off-line techniques. Here the first simultaneous online gas phase measurements of several classes of compounds including isocyanates, amides, nitrates, and nitro-organics are made during bonfire night (2014) in Manchester, UK, using a time-of-flight chemical ionization mass spectrometer (ToF-CIMS) using iodide reagent ions. A shallow boundary layer and low wind speeds favor pollutant buildup with typical HCN, HNCO, and CH3NCO concentrations of tens of parts per thousand increasing by a factor of 13 to potentially harmful levels >1 ppb. Normalized excess mixing ratios relative to CO for a range of isocyanates and amides are reported for the first time. Using a HNCO:CO ratio of 0.1%, we distinguish emissions from flaming and smoldering combustion and report more accurate normalized excess mixing ratios for the distinct burning phases. While bonfire night is a highly polluting event, NO2 concentrations measured at this location are higher at other times, highlighting the importance of traffic as an NO2 emission source at this location. A risk communication methodology is used to equate enhancements in hourly averaged black carbon and NO2 concentrations caused by bonfire night as an equivalent of 26.1 passively smoked cigarettes.

    Research areas

  • TOF CIMS, anthropogenic, biomass burning, hydrogen cyanide, bonfire night

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