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A procedure to evaluate the factors determining the elemental composition of PM2.5. Case study: the Veneto region (northeastern Italy)

Abstract

The Po Valley is one of the most important hot spots in Europe for air pollution. Morphological features and anthropogenic pressures lead to frequent breaching of air quality standards and to high-pollution episodes in an ~46 × 103-km2-wide alluvial lowland. Therefore, it is increasingly important to study the air quality in a wide geographical scale to better implement possible and successful mitigation measures. The Veneto region lies in the eastern part of the Po Valley and the elemental composition of PM has been mainly studied in the Venice area, whereas scarce data are available for the remaining territory of the region. In this study, the elemental composition of PM2.5 was investigated over 1 year (2012–2013) at six major cities of the Veneto region. Samples were analyzed for 16 elements (Ca, Al, Fe, S, K, Mg, Ti, Mn, Zn, Ba, As, Ni, Pb, Sb, V, and Cu), and results were processed to investigate spatial and seasonal variations, the influence of meteorological factors, and the most probable sources by using a procedure based on (i) elemental ratios (Cu/Sb, Cu/Zn, Cu/Pb, Mn/V, V/Ni, and Zn/Pb), (ii) cluster analysis on wind data, and (iii) conditional probability function (CPF). The percentage of elements in PM2.5 ranged between 11 and 20%, and Ca and S were the most abundant elements in the region. Typical seasonal variations and similar trends were exhibited by each element, especially in the lowland. Some elements such as Zn, K, Mn, Pb, and Sb were found at high concentrations during the cold period. However, no similar dispersion processes were observed throughout the region, and their concentrations were mostly depending on individual local sources. In the alpine and foothill parts of the region, lower concentrations were recorded with respect to the Po Valley cities, which resulted enriched of most of the elements considered in this study. The cluster analysis on wind data and the CPF of the ratio-related sources demonstrated that a widespread pollution condition exists in the region, apart from the coastal area. However, specific directions (e.g., a link with high-traffic roads, industrial areas, and airports) resulted the most probable explanation for each ratio-related source. In addition, the Veneto region hosts one of the most important Mediterranean ports for the cruise sector (Venice harbor), and its impact was previously demonstrated in the historical city center. In this study, the impact of Venice shipping emissions was estimated to be 3.5% of PM2.5 in some particular days.

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Acknowledgments

This study presents a part of the results obtained in the framework of the agreement between the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and the Regional Agency for Environmental Protection of Veneto (ARPAV; www.arpa.veneto.it). The authors are grateful to ARPAV Centro Meteorologico of Teolo for providing the weather data used in this study.

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Correspondence to Bruno Pavoni.

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The authors would like to stress that the views expressed in this study do not necessarily correspond to those of ARPAV and are exclusively of their own. Further, this work was not financially supported by any private or public institution.

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Responsible editor: Gerhard Lammel

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Benetello, F., Squizzato, S., Masiol, M. et al. A procedure to evaluate the factors determining the elemental composition of PM2.5. Case study: the Veneto region (northeastern Italy). Environ Sci Pollut Res 25, 3823–3839 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-0759-7

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Keywords

  • PM2.5
  • Elements
  • Meteorology
  • Elemental ratios
  • Cluster analysis and CPF