Spatial variation of PM elemental composition between and within 20 European study areas - Results of the ESCAPE project

Ming-Yi Tsai, Gerard Hoek, Marloes Eeftens, Kees de Hoogh, Rob Beelen, Timea Beregszászi, Giulia Cesaroni, Marta Cirach, Josef Cyrys, Audrey De Nazelle, Frank de Vocht, Regina Ducret-Stich, Kirsten Eriksen, Claudia Galassi, Regina Gražuleviciene, Tomas Gražulevicius, Georgios Grivas, Alexandros Gryparis, Joachim Heinrich, Barbara HoffmannMinas Iakovides, Menno Keuken, Ursula Krämer, Nino Künzli, Timo Lanki, Christian Madsen, Kees Meliefste, Anne-Sophie Merritt, Anna Mölter, Gioia Mosler, Mark J Nieuwenhuijsen, Göran Pershagen, Harish Phuleria, Ulrich Quass, Andrea Ranzi, Emmanuel Schaffner, Ranjeet Sokhi, Morgane Stempfelet, Euripides Stephanou, Dorothea Sugiri, Pekka Taimisto, Marjan Tewis, Orsolya Udvardy, Meng Wang, Bert Brunekreef

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


An increasing number of epidemiological studies suggest that adverse health effects of air pollution may be related to particulate matter (PM) composition, particularly trace metals. However, we lack comprehensive data on the spatial distribution of these elements. We measured PM2.5 and PM10 in twenty study areas across Europe in three seasonal two-week periods over a year using Harvard impactors and standardized protocols. In each area, we selected street (ST), urban (UB) and regional background (RB) sites (totaling 20) to characterize local spatial variability. Elemental composition was determined by energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence analysis of all PM2.5 and PM10 filters. We selected a priori eight (Cu, Fe, K, Ni, S, Si, V, Zn) well-detected elements of health interest, which also roughly represented different sources including traffic, industry, ports, and wood burning. PM elemental composition varied greatly across Europe, indicating different regional influences. Average street to urban background ratios ranged from 0.90 (V) to 1.60 (Cu) for PM2.5 and from 0.93 (V) to 2.28 (Cu) for PM10. Our selected PM elements were variably correlated with the main pollutants (PM2.5, PM10, PM2.5 absorbance, NO2 and NOx) across Europe: in general, Cu and Fe in all size fractions were highly correlated (Pearson correlations above 0.75); Si and Zn in the coarse fractions were modestly correlated (between 0.5 and 0.75); and the remaining elements in the various size fractions had lower correlations (around 0.5 or below). This variability in correlation demonstrated the distinctly different spatial distributions of most of the elements. Variability of PM10_Cu and Fe was mostly due to within-study area differences (67% and 64% of overall variance, respectively) versus between-study area and exceeded that of most other traffic-related pollutants, including NO2 and soot, signaling the importance of non-tailpipe (e.g., brake wear) emissions in PM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-192
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironment International
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2015

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