Chemistry of Forest Fires and Regional Haze with Emphasis on Southeast Asia
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— The current state of knowledge regarding the chemistry of forest fires and regional haze is reviewed. More than 100 compounds have been identified in wood smoke and many of these have also been observed in field studies. Products of biomass combustion can have different environmental effects: CO2 and CH4 may contribute to global warming, NOx and SO2 could contribute to rainwater acidity, whereas smoke particles and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) could affect human health. Also, photochemical reactions of primary emissions from biomass fires can lead to the production of secondary pollutants such as O3. Regional haze episodes caused by forest fires have occurred in SE Asia on several occasions during the 1990s and the reported studies of these episodes are reviewed. Only total suspended particles (TSP) were determined in the earlier studies, and more comprehensive chemical investigations have only emerged during the more recent episodes, notably those of 1997 and 1998. To date, most of the measurements have centred on criteria pollutants (SO2, NO2, CO, O3 and PM10), however, other pollutants (e.g., VOCs, PAHs) have also been determined in certain studies. Rainwater analyses suggest that forest fires do not have a major acidifying effect because dissolved acidic gases (e.g., SO2) are neutralised by alkaline substances (e.g., Ca, Mg, K) that are also emitted by forest fires. There is a need for further laboratory and field studies in order to investigate important pollutant transformation mechanisms.
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