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Open Access Laboratory Study of Simulated Atmospheric Transformations of Chromium in Ultrafine Combustion Aerosol Particles

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While atmospheric particles can have adverse health effects, the reasons for this toxicity are largely unclear. One possible reason is that the particles can contain toxic metals such as chromium. Chromium exists in the environment in two major oxidation states: III, which is an essential nutrient, and VI, which is highly toxic and carcinogenic. Currently little is known about the speciation of chromium in airborne particles or how this speciation is altered by atmospheric reactions. To investigate the potential impacts of atmospheric aging on the speciation and toxicity of chromium-containing particles, we collected chromium and chromium-iron combustion ultrafine particles on Teflon filters and exposed the particles to a combination of light, ozone, water vapor, and, in some cases, basic or acidic conditions. After the aging process, the aged and not-aged samples were analyzed for Cr oxidation state using X-ray Absorption Near Edge Spectroscopy (XANES). We found that the aging process reduced Cr(VI) by as much as 20% in chromium particles that had high initial Cr(VI)/Cr(total) ratios. This reduction of Cr(VI) to Cr(III) appears to be due to reactions primarily with light and hydroperoxyl radical (HO 2 ) in the chamber. Particles that had low initial Cr(VI)/Cr(total) ratios experienced no significant change in Cr oxidation states after aging. Compared to particles containing only Cr, the addition of Fe to the flame decreased the Cr(VI)/Cr(total) ratio in fresh Cr-Fe particles by ∼60%. Aging of these Cr-Fe particles had no additional effects on the Cr(VI)/Cr(total) ratio.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Land, Air & Water Resources, University of California, Davis, California, USA 2: Earth Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, One Cyclotron Road, Berkeley, California, USA 3: Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering, University of California, Davis, California, USA

Publication date: July 1, 2006

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