Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 21, Issue 6, pp 3999–4009 | Cite as

Seasonal variations in the chemical composition of particulate matter: a case study in the Po Valley. Part I: macro-components and mass closure

  • C. Perrino
  • M. Catrambone
  • S. Dalla Torre
  • E. Rantica
  • T. Sargolini
  • S. Canepari
Heavy Metals in the Environment : Sources, Interactions and Human Health


The seasonal variability in the mass concentration and chemical composition of atmospheric particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) was studied during a 2-year field study carried out between 2010 and 2012. The site of the study was the area of Ferrara (Po Valley, Northern Italy), which is characterized by frequent episodes of very stable atmospheric conditions in winter. Chemical analyses carried out during the study allowed the determination of the main components of atmospheric PM (macro-elements, ions, elemental carbon, organic matter) and a satisfactory mass closure was obtained. Accordingly, chemical components could be grouped into the main macro-sources of PM: soil, sea spray, inorganic compounds from secondary reactions, vehicular emission, organics from domestic heating, organics from secondary formation, and other sources. The more significant seasonal variations were observed for secondary inorganic species in the fine fraction of PM; these species were very sensitive to air mass age and thus to the frequency of stable atmospheric conditions. During the winter ammonium nitrate, the single species with the highest concentration, reached concentrations as high as 30 μg/m3. The intensity of natural sources was fairly constant during the year; increases in natural aerosols were linked to medium and long-range transport episodes. The ratio of winter to summer concentrations was roughly 2 for combustion product, close to 3 for secondary inorganic species, and between 2 and 3 for organics. The winter increase of organics was due to poorer atmospheric dispersion and to the addition of the emission from domestic heating. A similar winter to summer ratio (around 3) was observed for the fine fraction of PM.


Particulate matter Chemical speciation Po Valley Mass closure Atmospheric stability 



The authors are grateful to L. Tofful and S. Pareti for their technical assistance during the SOPs. This study has been funded by HERA s.p.a.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Perrino
    • 1
  • M. Catrambone
    • 1
  • S. Dalla Torre
    • 1
  • E. Rantica
    • 1
  • T. Sargolini
    • 1
  • S. Canepari
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.CNR Institute of Atmospheric Pollution ResearchRomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of ChemistrySapienza University of RomeRomeItaly

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