Fine organic particulate matter dominates indoor-generated PM2.5 in RIOPA homes

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Residential indoor and outdoor fine particle (PM2.5) organic (OC) and elemental carbon (EC) concentrations (48 h) were measured at 173 homes in Houston, TX, Los Angeles County, CA, and Elizabeth, NJ as part of the Relationship of Indoor, Outdoor and Personal Air (RIOPA) study. The adsorption of organic vapors on the quartz fiber sampling filter (a positive artifact) was substantial indoors and out, accounting for 36% and 37% of measured OC at the median indoor (8.2 μg C/m3) and outdoor (5.0 μg C/m3) OC concentrations, respectively. Uncorrected, adsorption artifacts would lead to substantial overestimation of particulate OC both indoors and outdoors. After artifact correction, the mean particulate organic matter (OM = 1.4 OC) concentration indoors (9.8 μg/m3) was twice the mean outdoor concentration (4.9 μg/m3). The mean EC concentration was 1.1 μg/m3 both indoors and outdoors. OM accounted for 29%, 30% and 29% of PM2.5 mass outdoors and 48%, 55% and 61% of indoor PM2.5 mass in Los Angeles Co., Elizabeth and Houston study homes, respectively. Indirect evidence provided by species mass balance results suggests that PM2.5 nitrate (not measured) was largely lost during outdoor-to-indoor transport, as reported by Lunden et al. This results in dramatic changes with outdoor-to-indoor transport in the mass and composition of ambient-generated PM2.5 at California homes. On average, 71% to 76% of indoor OM was emitted or formed indoors, calculated by (1) Random Component Superposition (RCS) model and (2) non-linear fit of OC and air exchange rate data to the mass balance model. Assuming that all particles penetrate indoors (P = 1) and there is no particle loss indoors (k = 0), a lower bound estimate of 41% of indoor OM was indoor-generated (mean). OM appears to be the predominant species in indoor-generated PM2.5, based on species mass balance results. Particulate OM emitted or formed indoors is substantial enough to alter the concentration, composition and behavior of indoor PM2.5. One interesting effect of increased indoor OM concentrations is a shift in the gas-particle partitioning of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from the gas to the particle phase with outdoor-to-indoor transport.

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