Daily observations of hazardous trace metal concentrations in aerosols in Beijing, China were made in the period from 2001 to 2006. We considered coal combustion as a major source of some anthropogenic metals by achieving a correlation analysis and by investigating enrichment factors and relative composition of metals. A possible extra source of some specific metals, such as Cu and Sb, was brake abrasion particles, however, we did not think the transport-related particle was a major source for the hazardous anthropogenic metals even though they could originate from vehicle exhaust and brake/tire abrasion particles. A time-trend model was used to describe temporal variations of chemical constituent concentrations during the five-year period. Several crustal elements, such as Al, Ti, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, and Co, did not show clear increases, with annual rates of change of -15.2% to 3.6%. On the other hand, serious increasing trends were noted from several hazardous trace metals. Cu, Zn, As, Cd, and Pb, which are derived mainly from anthropogenic sources, such as coal combustion, showed higher annual rate of change (4.9-19.8%, p < 0.001) according to the regression model. In particular, the Cd and Pb concentrations increased remarkably. We hypothesize that the trend towards increasing concentrations of metals in the air reflects a change that has occurred in the process of burning coal, whereby the use of higher temperatures for coal combustion has resulted in increased emissions of these metals. The increasing use of low-rank coal may also explain the observed trends. In addition, nonferrous metal smelters are considered as a potential, albeit minor, reason for the increasing atmospheric concentrations of anthropogenic hazardous metals in Beijing city.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Engineering
- Environmental Chemistry
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis