Vertical and Diurnal characterization of volatile organic compounds in ambient air in Urban areas

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More than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and their populations are rapidly increasing. Information on vertical and diurnal characterizations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in urban areas with heavy ambient air pollution can help further understand the impact of ambient VOCs on the local urban environment. This study characterized vertical and diurnal variations in VOCs at 2, 13, 32, 58, and 111 m during four daily time periods (7:00 to 9:00 a.m., 12:00 to 2:00 p.m., 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., and 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.) at the upwind of a high-rise building in downtown, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan. The study used gas chromatography–mass spectrometry to analyze air samples collected by silica-coated canisters. The vertical distributions of ambient VOC profiles showed that VOCs tended to decrease at greater heights. However, VOC levels were found to be higher at 13 m than at ground level at midnight from 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. and higher at 32 than 13 m between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m. These observations suggest that vertical dispersion and dilution of airborne pollutants could be jointly affected by local meteorological conditions and the proximity of pollution sources. The maximum concentration of VOCs was recorded during the morning rush hours from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m., followed by rush hours from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., hours from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m., and hours from 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m., indicating that the most VOC compounds in urban air originate from traffic and transportation emissions. The benzene-toluene-ethyl benzene-xylene (BTEX) source analysis shows that BTEX at all heights were mostly associated with vehicle transportation activities on the ground.

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