Redox activity of urban quasi-ultrafine particles from primary and secondary sources

Vishal Verma, Zhi Ning, Arthur K. Cho, James J. Schauer, Martin M. Shafer, Constantinos Sioutas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To characterize the redox activity profiles of atmospheric aerosols from primary (traffic) and secondary photochemical sources, ambient quasi-ultrafine particles were collected near downtown Los Angeles in two different time periods - morning (6:00-9:00 PDT) and afternoon (11:00-14:00 PDT) in the summer of 2008. Detailed chemical analysis of the collected samples, including water-soluble elements, inorganic ions, organic species and water soluble organic carbon (WSOC) was conducted and redox activity of the samples was measured by two different assays: the dithiothreitol (DTT) and the macrophage reactive oxygen species (ROS) assays. Tracers of secondary photochemical reactions, such as sulfate and organic acids were higher (2.1 ± 0.6 times for sulfate, and up to 3 times for the organic acids) in the afternoon period. WSOC was also elevated by 2.5 ± 0.9 times in the afternoon period due to photo-oxidation of primary particles during atmospheric aging. Redox activity measured by the DTT assay was considerably higher for the samples collected during the afternoon; on the other hand, diurnal trends in the ROS-based activity were not consistent between the morning and afternoon periods. A linear regression between redox activity and various PM chemical constituents showed that the DTT assay was highly correlated with WSOC (R2 = 0.80), while ROS activity was associated mostly with water soluble transition metals (Vanadium, Nickel and Cadmium; R2 > 0.70). The DTT and ROS assays, which are based on the generation of different oxidizing species by chemical PM constituents, provide important information for elucidating the health risks related to PM exposure from different sources. Thus, both primary and secondary particles possess high redox activity; however, photochemical transformations of primary emissions with atmospheric aging enhance the toxicological potency of primary particles in terms of generating oxidative stress and leading to subsequent damage in cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6360-6368
Number of pages9
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number40
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Dithiothreitol (DTT)
  • Macrophage ROS
  • Photochemical processes
  • Quasi-ultrafine particles
  • Redox-active species
  • Traffic sources

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science


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