The results from a chemical characterization study of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) measured at three elementary schools in Central and Southeast Ohio is presented here. PM2.5 aerosol samples were collected from outdoor monitors and indoor samplers at each monitoring location during the period of February 1, 1999, through August 31, 2000. The locations included a rural elementary school in Athens, OH, and two urban schools within Columbus, OH. The trace metal and ionic concentrations in the collected samples were analyzed using an X-ray fluorescence spectrophotometer and ion chromatography unit, respectively. Sulfate ion was found to be the largest component present in the samples at all three of the sites. Other abundant components included nitrate, chloride, ammonium, and sodium ions, as well as calcium, silicon, and iron. The average PM2.5 concentrations showed similar temporal variations among the three sites within the study region. PM2.5 and its major component, sulfate ion, showed strong seasonal variations with maximum concentrations observed during the summer at all three of the sites. The indoor environment was found to be more contaminated during the spring months (March through May) at New Albany (a suburb of Columbus, OH) and East Athens (rural Ohio area). Potential source contribution function analysis showed that particulate matter levels at the monitoring sites were affected by transport from adjoining urban areas and industrial complexes located along the Ohio River Valley. A preliminary outdoor source apportionment using the principal component analysis (PCA) technique was performed. The results from the PCA suggest that the study region was primarily impacted by industrial, fossil fuel combustion, and geological sources. The 2002 emissions inventory data for PM2.5 compiled by Ohio Environmental Protection Agency also showed impacts of similar source types, and this was used to validate the PCA analysis.
Fine particles in the ambient atmosphere can penetrate to the deepest parts of the lungs and, thus, significantly impact human health. Various epidemiological studies conducted have provided evidence for an association between acute particulate matter (PM) exposures and increases in mortality and morbidity among people suffering with respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.1,2 Other health problems associated with acute exposures to PM included acute asthma exacerbations; bronchitis; acute and chronic respiratory symptoms, such as shortness of breath and painful breathing; increases in the number of hospital admissions for cardiovascular problems, including arrhythmia, myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, and acute coronary events; and premature deaths.3–