Abstract View references (51) Exposure to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) leads to adverse health effects although the exact mechanisms of toxicity are still poorly understood. Several studies suggested that a large number of PM health effects could be due to the oxidative potential (OP) of ambient particles leading to high concentrations of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The contribution to OP of specific anthropogenic sources like road traffic, biomass burning, and industrial emissions has been investigated in several sites. However, information about the OP of natural sources are scarce and no data is available regarding the OP during Saharan dust outbreaks (SDO) in Mediterranean regions. This work uses the a-cellular DTT (dithiothreitol) assay to evaluate OP of the water-soluble fraction of PM2.5 and PM10 collected at an urban background site in Southern Italy. OP values in three groups of samples were compared: standard characterised by concentrations similar to the yearly averages; high carbon samples associated to combustion sources (mainly road traffic and biomass burning) and SDO events. DTT activity normalised by sampled air volume (DTTV), representative of personal exposure, and normalised by collected aerosol mass (DTTM), representing source-specific characteristics, were investigated. The DTTV is larger for high PM concentrations. DTTV is well correlated with secondary organic carbon concentration. An increased DTTV response was found for PM2.5 compared to the coarse fraction PM2.5-10. DTTV is larger for high carbon content samples but during SDO events is statistically comparable with that of standard samples. DTTM is larger for PM2.5 compared to PM10 and the relative difference between the two size fractions is maximised during SDO events. This indicates that Saharan dust advection is a natural source of particles having a lower specific OP with respect to the other sources acting on the area (for water-soluble fraction). OP should be taken into account in epidemiological studies to evaluate the potential health risks associated to ROS in regions affected by high pollution events due to Saharan dust advection.
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