Organic aerosols associated with the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by water-soluble PM2.5

Vishal Verma, Ting Fang, Lu Xu, Richard E. Peltier, Armistead G. Russell, Nga Lee Ng, Rodney J. Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We compare the relative toxicity of various organic aerosol (OA) components identified by an aerosol mass spectrometer (AMS) based on their ability to generate reactive oxygen species (ROS). Ambient fine aerosols were collected from urban (three in Atlanta, GA and one in Birmingham, AL) and rural (Yorkville, GA and Centerville, AL) sites in the Southeastern United States. The ROS generating capability of the water-soluble fraction of the particles was measured by the dithiothreitol (DTT) assay. Water-soluble PM extracts were further separated into the hydrophobic and hydrophilic fractions using a C-18 column, and both fractions were analyzed for DTT activity and water-soluble metals. Organic aerosol composition was measured at selected sites using a high-resolution time-of-flight AMS. Positive matrix factorization of the AMS spectra resolved the organic aerosol into isoprene-derived OA (Isop-OA), hydrocarbon-like OA (HOA), less-oxidized oxygenated OA, (LO-OOA), more-oxidized OOA (MO-OOA), cooking OA (COA), and biomass burning OA (BBOA). The association of the DTT activity of water-soluble PM2.5 (WS-DTT) with these factors was investigated by linear regression techniques. BBOA and MO-OOA were most consistently linked with WS-DTT, with intrinsic water-soluble activities of 151 ± 20 and 36 ± 22 pmol/min/μg, respectively. Although less toxic, MO-OOA was most widespread, contributing to WS-DTT activity at all sites and during all seasons. WS-DTT activity was least associated with biogenic secondary organic aerosol. The OA components contributing to WS-DTT were humic-like substances (HULIS), which are abundantly emitted in biomass burning (BBOA) and include highly oxidized OA from multiple sources (MO-OOA). Overall, OA contributed approximately 60% to the WS-DTT activity, with the remaining probably from water-soluble metals, which were mostly associated with the hydrophilic WS-DTT fraction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4646-4656
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 7 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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