Land use and air quality in urban environments: Human health risk assessment due to inhalation of airborne particles

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Abstract

Particle matter (PM) and its associated compounds are a serious problem for urban air quality and a threat to human health. In the present study, we assessed the intraurban variation of PM, and characterized the human health risk associated to the inhalation of particles measured on PM filters, considering different land use areas in the urban area of Cordoba city (Argentina) and different age groups. To assess the intraurban variation of PM, a biomonitoring network of T. capillaris was established in 15 sampling sites with different land use and the bioaccumulation of Co, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, Pb and Zn was quantified. After that, particles were collected by instrumental monitors placed at the most representative sampling sites of each land use category and an inhalation risk was calculated. A remarkable intraurban difference in the heavy metals content measured in the biomonitors was observed, in relation with the sampling site land use. The higher content was detected at industrial areas as well as in sites with intense vehicular traffic. Mean PM10 levels exceeded the standard suggested by the U.S. EPA in all land use areas, except for the downtown. Hazard Index values were below EPA's safe limit in all land use areas and in the different age groups. In contrast, the carcinogenic risk analysis showed that all urban areas exceeded the acceptable limit (1 × 10−6), while the industrial sampling sites and the elder group presented a carcinogenic risk higher that the unacceptable limit. These findings validate the use of T. capillaris to assess intraurban air quality and also show there is an important intraurban variation in human health risk associated to different land use.

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