Influence of sugar cane burning on aerosol soluble ion composition in southeastern Brazil

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Seasonal variability in the major soluble ion composition of atmospheric particulate matter in the principal sugar cane growing region of central Sao Paulo State indicates that pre-harvest burning of sugar cane plants is an important influence on the regional scale aerosol chemistry. Samples of particulate matter were collected between April 1999 and February 2001 in coarse (> 3.5 mum) and fine (<3.5 mum) fractions, and analysed for HCOO-, CH3COO-, C2C42-, SO42- . Results indicated that the principal sources of the aerosols investigated NO3-, Cl-, Na+, K+, NH4+, Mg2+ and Ca2+ were local or regional in nature (scale of tens to a few hundreds of km), and that differences between air masses of varying origins were small. Fine particles were typically acidic, containing secondary nitrates, sulphates and organic species. Coarse fraction concentrations were mainly influenced by physical parameters (wind speed, movement of vehicles and surface condition) affecting rates of re-suspension, although secondary nitrate and sulphate were also present in the larger particles. Concentrations of all measured species except sodium and chloride were higher during the burning season. Although concentrations were lower than often found in polluted urban environments, the massive increases during much of the year, due to a single anthropogenic activity (sugar cane burning) are indicative of a very large perturbation of the lower troposphere in the region relative to the natural condition. These aerosols are suspected of promoting respiratory disease. They also represent an important mechanism for the tropospheric transport of species relevant to surface acidification (sulphates, nitrates, ammonium and organic acids) and soil nutrient status (potassium, nitrogen, ammonium, calcium), so their impact on fragile natural ecosystems (following deposition) needs to be considered. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5025-5038
Number of pages14
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004


  • Brazil, soluble ions, biomass burning, aerosols, sugar cane