Nanoparticles in road dust from impervious urban surfaces: distribution, identification, and environmental implications


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Royal Society of Chemistry


Nanoparticles (NPs) resulting from urban road dust resuspension are an understudied class of pollutants in urban environments with strong potential for health hazards. The objective of this study was to investigate the heavy metal and nanoparticle content of PM2.5 generated in the laboratory using novel aerosolization of 66 road dust samples collected throughout the mega-city of Shanghai (China). The samples were characterized using an array of techniques including inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry, aerosol size distribution measurements, and scanning and transmission electron microscopy coupled with elemental characterization and electron diffraction. Principal metal concentrations were plotted geospatially. Results show that metals were generally enriched in aerosolized samples relative to the bulk dust. Elevated concentrations of metals were found mostly in downtown areas with intense traffic. Fe-, Pb-, Zn-, and Ba-containing NPs were identified using electron microscopy, spectroscopy, and diffraction, and we tentatively identify most of them as either engineered, incidental, or naturally occurring NPs. For example, dangerous Pb sulfide and sulfate NPs likely have an incidental origin and are also sometimes associated with Sn; we believe that these materials originated from an e-waste plant. Size distributions of most aerosolized samples presented a peak in the ultrafine range (<100 nm). We estimate that 3.2 ± 0.7 μg mg−1 of Shanghai road dust may become resuspended in the form of PM2.5. Aerosolization, as done in this study, seems to be a very useful approach to study NPs in dust.