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Carbon (EC/OC) concentrations as derived from routine PM measurements in the Netherlands

Report | 17-12-2009
Photo of elemental carbon in the form of soft dark brown coal

Particulate matter (PM) in the Netherlands consists for 20 to 30% of carbon, according to measurements. This part of PM presently is believed to be especially associated with adverse health effects of PM. We found that the contribution of carbon to PM increased with 2 to 3 µg/m³ from rural to urban traffic measurement locations. The increment is attributed to the contribution from traffic as a source of carbon.

Carbon in particulate matter

The carbon content of particulate matter (PM) was analysed for six measurement locations, during one year, as part of a larger research programme on the composition and origin of PM10 and PM2.5 in the Netherlands. From a source apportionment point of view, the contribution of carbon to PM is usually split in elementary carbon (EC) and organic carbon (OC). Carbonaceous components of PM are important because they are presently specifically associated with adverse health effects of PM, although the knowledge on its contribution to PM and its behaviour across time and space is relatively small. Carbonaceous components are emitted as PM in combustion processes, such as in traffic. Particulate carbonaceous material is also chemically formed in the air. Part of it is of natural origin. This study gives an estimate of the contribution of EC and OC to PM in the Netherlands. Since measurements of EC and OC include large uncertainties, we devoted special attention to measurement techniques and their robustness.

Contribution of carbon and carbonaceous components to PM10 and PM2.5

Particulate matter was collected according to the reference method for measuring PM10 and PM2.5. The average carbon contribution of EC and OC to PM was about 5 µg/m³ for PM10 and 4 µg/m³ for PM2.5. Thirty procent should be added to these amounts to account for the elements of carbonaceous components, such as oxygen and hydrogen: for PM10, the carbonaceous contribution varied between 5 µg/m³ at rural measurement locations, and 7.5 µg/m³ at urban traffic locations. The increment of 2.5 µg/m³ in the carbonaceous contribution between rural and urban traffic locations, was mainly linked to an increment in EC. A comparison with carbon measurements performed by the GGD Amsterdam showed that the contribution of total carbon to PM provided a robust result, whereas the split in EC and OC was more uncertain.

More information

The study was carried out by the ECN, in cooperation with the RIVM and the GGD Amsterdam, and is part of the Netherlands Research Program on Particulate Matter (BOP).

Author(s)Brink HM ten ; Weijers EP ; Arkel FT van ; Jonge D de
Report no.500099005
Publication date17-12-2009
ISSNISSN 1875-2322 (print); 1875-2314 (on line)