The influences of ambient particle composition and size on particle infiltration in Los Angeles, CA, residences

Stefanie Ebelt Sarnat, Brent A Coull, Pablo A Ruiz, Petros Koutrakis, Helen H Suh
Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association 2006, 56 (2): 186-96
Particle infiltration is a key determinant of the indoor concentrations of ambient particles. Few studies have examined the influence of particle composition on infiltration, particularly in areas with high concentrations of volatile particles, such as ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3). A comprehensive indoor monitoring study was conducted in 17 Los Angeles-area homes. As part of this study, indoor/outdoor concentration ratios during overnight (nonindoor source) periods were used to estimate the fraction of ambient particles remaining airborne indoors, or the particle infiltration factor (FINF), for fine particles (PM2.5), its nonvolatile (i.e., black carbon [BC]) and volatile (i.e., nitrate [NO3-]) components, and particle sizes ranging between 0.02 and 10 microm. FINF was highest for BC (median = 0.84) and lowest for NO3- (median = 0.18). The low FINF for NO3- was likely because of volatilization of NO3- particles once indoors, in addition to depositional losses upon building entry. The FINF for PM2.5 (median = 0.48) fell between those for BC and NO3-, reflecting the contributions of both particle components to PM25. FINF varied with particle size, air-exchange rate, and outdoor NO3- concentrations. The FINF for particles between 0.7 and 2 microm in size was considerably lower during periods of high as compared with low outdoor NO3- concentrations, suggesting that outdoor NO3- particles were of this size. This study demonstrates that infiltration of PM2.5 varies by particle component and is lowest for volatile species, such as NH4NO3. Our results suggest that volatile particle components may influence the ability for outdoor PM concentrations to represent indoor and, thus, personal exposures to particles of ambient origin, because volatilization of these particles causes the composition of PM2.5 to differ indoors and outdoors. Consequently, particle composition likely influences observed epidemiologic relationships based on outdoor PM concentrations, especially in areas with high concentrations of NH4NO3 and other volatile particles.

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