Wildland-urban interface fire ashes as a major source of incidental nanomaterials


Although metal and metalloid concentrations in wildfire ashes have been documented, the nature and concen-trations of incidental nanomaterials (INMs) in wildland-urban interface (WUI) fire ashes have received consid-erably less attention. In this study, the total metal and metalloid concentrations of 57 vegetation, structural, and vehicle ashes and underlying soils collected at the WUI following the 2020 fire season in northern California - North Complex Fire and LNU Lightning Complex Fire - were determined using inductively coupled plasma-time of flight-mass spectrometry after microwave-assisted acid digestion. The concentrations of Ti, Zn, Cu, Ni, Pb, Sn, Sb, Co, Bi, Cr, Ba, As, Rb, and W are generally higher in structural/vehicle-derived ashes than in vegetation -derived ashes and soils. The concentrations of Ca, Sr, Rb, and Ag increased with increased combustion completeness (e.g., black ash < gray ash < white ash), whereas those of C, N, Zn, Pb, and In decreased with increased combustion completeness. The concentration of anthropogenic Ti - determined by mass balance calculations and shifts in Ti/Nb above the natural background ratios - was highest in vehicle ash (median: 30.8 g kg -1, range: 4.5-41.0 g kg -1) followed by structural ash (median: 5.5 g kg -1, range: of 0-77.4 g kg -1). Various types of carbonaceous INM (e.g., amorphous carbon, turbostratic-like carbon, and carbon associated with zinc oxides) and metal-bearing INMs (e.g., Ti, Cu, Fe, Zn, Mn, Pb, and Cr) with sizes between few nanometers to few hundreds of nanometers were evidenced in ashes using transmission electron microscopy, including energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy. Overall, this study demonstrates the abundance of a variety of metals and met-alloids in the form of INMs in WUI fire ashes. This study also highlights the need for further research into the formation, transformation, reactivity, fate, and effects of INMs during and following fires at the WUI.

Incidental nanomaterials, Wildland-urban interface fire, Fire ash, Metals and metalloids