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The Value of Adding Black Carbon to Community Monitoring of Particulate Matter

The Value of Adding Black Carbon to Community Monitoring of Particulate Matter

Full Title: The Value of Adding Black Carbon to Community Monitoring of Particulate Matter
Author(s): Rebecca A. Sugrue, Chelsea V. Preble, James D.A. Butler, Alaia J. Redon-Gabel, Pietro Marconi, Karan D. Shetty, Lee Ann L. Hill, Audrey M. Amezcua-Smith, Boris R. Lukanov, and Thomas W. Kirchstetter
Publisher(s): ScienceDirect
Publication Date: November 9, 2023
Full Text: Download Resource
Description (excerpt):

Low-cost particulate matter (PM) sensors are increasingly used by researchers, public health agencies, and the public to measure spatial and temporal variations in air pollution, which can inform strategies for community air pollution reduction. While low-cost PM sensors provide a valuable measure of harmful fine particulate matter (PM2.5), a significant portion of ambient PM2.5 is typically the secondary product of air pollution emitted by varied sources outside of community boundaries. In contrast, concentrations of black carbon (BC), a component of PM2.5, are directly emitted by a few specific sources, such as diesel engines within communities.
Motivated by community organizations seeking to understand persistent sources of local pollution, this study deployed a suite of custom-built BC sensors alongside a network of low-cost PM sensors for four weeks in two seasons at 50 stationary locations in the adjacent cities of Richmond, North Richmond, and San Pablo, California, east of the San Francisco Bay. Concentrations of BC varied more than PM2.5 both temporally and spatially. Monthly network-average BC was 3 × higher in winter than late spring, while PM2.5 was only 10% lower. In both seasons, average PM2.5 concentrations at two-thirds of sites were within ±10% of the network average, whereas two-thirds of sites had BC levels outside of ±10% of the network-average concentration. The most and least polluted locations were more persistent across seasons for BC than PM2.5, and the temporal dynamics of BC at these sites were similar, signifying that they are impacted by the same emission sources. Together, these spatiotemporal trends show that BC is a better indicator of the proximity and activity of local pollution sources than PM2.5. Thus, including BC in addition to PM2.5 in community monitoring networks can provide additional insights about local sources of air pollution.

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