Determinants of aerosol lung-deposited surface area variation in an urban environment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Cristina Reche
  • Mar Viana
  • Mariola Brines
  • Noemí Pérez
  • Andrés Alastuey
  • Xavier Querol

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Spanish Research Council (IDÆA-CSIC)


Ultrafine particles are characterized by a high surface area per mass. Particle surface has been reported to play a significant role in determining the toxicological activity of ultrafine particles. In light of this potential role, the time variation of lung deposited surface area (LDSA) concentrations in the alveolar region was studied at the urban background environment of Barcelona (Spain), aiming to asses which processes and sources govern this parameter. Simultaneous data on Black Carbon (BC), total particle number (N) and particle number size distribution were correlated with LDSA. Average LDSA concentrations in Barcelona were 37±26μm2cm-3, levels which seem to be characteristic for urban environments under traffic influence across Europe. Results confirm the comparability between LDSA data provided by the online monitor and those calculated based on particle size distributions (by SMPS), and reveal that LDSA concentrations are mainly influenced by particles in the size range 50-200nm. A set of representative daily cycles for LDSA concentrations was obtained by means of a k-means cluster technique. The contribution of traffic emissions to daily patterns was evidenced in all the clusters, but was quantitatively different. Traffic events under stable atmospheric conditions increased mean hourly background LDSA concentrations up to 6 times, attaining levels higher than 200μm2cm-3. However, under warm and relatively clean atmospheric conditions, the traffic rush hour contribution to the daily LDSA mean appeared to be lower and the contribution of new urban particle formation events (by photochemically induced nucleation) was detected. These nucleation events were calculated to increase average background LDSA concentrations by 15-35% (maximum LDSA levels=45-50μm2cm-3). Thereby, it may be concluded that in the urban background of Barcelona road traffic is the main source increasing the aerosol surface area which can deposit on critical regions of the human lung, followed by nucleation episodes.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-47
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • Exhaust emissions, Lung deposition, Photochemistry, Size distribution