Source: Yao HeSource: Yao HeA team of researchers from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences in China has devised a new method for tracking cooking-related pollution using black carbon.

Considered a major source of urban pollution and linked to lung cancer, cooking organic aerosol (COA) is difficult to distinguish from traffic-related organic aerosol (HOA). Current methods for identifying and quantifying COA are generally through positive matrix factorization of organic aerosol mass spectra from aerosol mass spectrometer concentrations as captured using low mass resolution aerosol chemical speciation monitors (ACSMs). Yet, it is difficult to distinguish COA from HOA as their unit mass resolution spectra are similar.

The team discovered that black carbon is a sufficient tracer for dividing HOA and COA. Researchers applied the black carbon tracer method to a number of datasets in Beijing and Nanjing, China, and discovered that COA contributed roughly 15% to 27% to total organic aerosol during the summer and over 10% more during heating periods marked by significant enhancement of coal combustion emissions.

Researchers also determined that COA is a significant contributor of organic aerosols in urban settings all over the world, contributing, on average, 15% to 20%.

"Considering that ACSM has been increasingly deployed worldwide for routine measurements of aerosol particle composition, our study might have significant implications for better source apportionment of OA and exposure studies in the future," said Professor Yele Sun from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The findings appear in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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