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Spatial and temporal variations of volatile organic compounds using passive air samplers in the multi-industrial city of Ulsan, Korea

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The source-receptor relationship of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is an important environmental concern, particularly in large industrial cities; however, only a few studies have identified VOC sources using high spatial resolution data. In this study, 28 VOCs were monitored in Ulsan, the biggest multi-industrial city in Korea. Passive air samplers were seasonally deployed at eight urban and six industrial sites. The target compounds were detected at all sites. No significant seasonal variations of VOCs were observed probably due to the continuous emissions from major industrial facilities. Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes, and styrene accounted for 66–86% of the concentration of Σ28 VOCs. The spatial distribution of the individual VOCs clearly indicated that petrochemical, automobile, non-ferrous, and shipbuilding industries were major VOC sources. Seasonal wind patterns were found to play a role in the spatial distribution of VOCs. Diagnostic ratios also confirmed that the industrial complexes were the dominant VOC sources. The results of principal component analysis and correlation analyses identified the influence of specific compounds from each industrial complex on individual sites. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first comprehensive report on the seasonal distribution of VOCs with high spatial resolution in a metropolitan industrial city in Korea.

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This work was supported by the 2018 Research Fund (1.180015.01) of UNIST (Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology), by the Korea Ministry of Environment (MOE) as “Public Technology Program based on Environmental Policy (2016000160002)”, and by a grant [KCG-01-2017-01] through the Disaster and Safety Management Institute funded by Korea Coast Guard of Korean government.

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Correspondence to Sung-Deuk Choi.

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Kim, S., Kwon, H., Lee, M. et al. Spatial and temporal variations of volatile organic compounds using passive air samplers in the multi-industrial city of Ulsan, Korea. Environ Sci Pollut Res 26, 5831–5841 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-018-4032-5

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  • VOCs
  • Passive air sampler
  • Spatial distribution
  • Source identification