Characterization of chemical components and cytotoxicity effects of indoor and outdoor fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in Xi’an, China

  • Xinyi Niu
  • Kin Fai HoEmail author
  • Tafeng Hu
  • Jian Sun
  • Jing Duan
  • Yu Huang
  • Ka Hei Lui
  • Junji CaoEmail author
Research Article


The chemical and cytotoxicity properties of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) at indoor and outdoor environment were characterized in Xi’an, China. The mass concentrations of PM2.5 in urban areas (93.29~96.13 μg m−3 for indoor and 124.37~154.52 μg m−3 for outdoor) were higher than suburban (68.40 μg m−3 for indoor and 96.18 μg m−3 for outdoor). The PM2.5 concentrations from outdoor environment due to fossil fuel combustion were higher than indoor environment. An indoor environment without central heating demonstrated higher organic carbon-to-elemental carbon (OC / EC) ratios and n-alkanes values that potentially attributed to residential coal combustion activities. The cell viability of human epithelial lung cells showed dose-dependent decrease, while nitric oxide (NO) and oxidative potential showed dose-dependent increase under exposure to PM2.5. The variations of bioreactivities could be possibly related to different chemical components from different sources. Moderate (0.4 < R < 0.6) to strong (R > 0.6) correlations were observed between bioreactivities and elemental carbon (EC)/secondary aerosols (NO3, SO42−, and NH4+)/heavy metals (Ni, Cu, and Pb). The findings suggest PM2.5 is associated with particle induced oxidative potential, which are further responsible for respiratory diseases under chronic exposure.


PM2.5 Indoor and outdoor Oxidative stress Inflammation 


Funding information

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation of China (NSFC21661132005). This study was also supported under the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region China (Project No. CUHK/14212116).

Supplementary material

11356_2019_6323_MOESM1_ESM.docx (320 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 319 kb)


  1. Albinet A, Leoz-Garziandia E, Budzinski H, ViIlenave E (2007) Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), nitrated PAHs and oxygenated PAHs in ambient air of the Marseilles area (South of France): concentrations and sources. Sci Total Environ 384:280–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alvarez S, Evelson PA (2007) Nitric oxide and oxygen metabolism in inflammatory conditions: sepsis and exposition to polluted ambients. Front Biosci 12:964–974CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Atkinson RW, Kang S, Anderson HR, Mills IC, Walton HA (2014) Epidemiological time series studies of PM2.5 and daily mortality and hospital admissions: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Thorax 69:660–665CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bi X, Sheng G, Peng P a, Chen Y, Zhang Z, Fu J (2003) Distribution of particulate-and vapor-phase n-alkanes and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in urban atmosphere of Guangzhou, China. Atmos Environ 37(2):289–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bitterle E, Karg E, Schroeppel A, Kreyling W, Tippe A, Ferron G, Schmid O, Heyder J, Maier K, Hofer T (2006) Dose-controlled exposure of A549 epithelial cells at the air–liquid interface to airborne ultrafine carbonaceous particles. Chemosphere 65:1784–1790CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Broich AV, Gerharz LE, Klemm O (2012) Personal monitoring of exposure to particulate matter with a high temporal resolution. Environ Sci Pollut Res 19:2959–2972CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cao JJ, Lee SC, Ho KF, Zou SC, Fung K, Li Y, Watson JG, Chow JC (2004) Spatial and seasonal variations of atmospheric organic carbon and elemental carbon in Pearl River Delta Region, China. Atmos Environ 38(27):4447–4456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cao JJ, Wu F, Chow JC, Lee SC, Li Y, Chen SW, An ZS, Fung KK, Watson JG, Zhu CS, Liu SX (2005) Characterization and source apportionment of atmospheric organic and elemental carbon during fall and winter of 2003 in Xi’an, China. Atmos Chem Phys 5:3127–3137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cao JJ, Lee SC, Chow JC, Watson JG, Ho KF, Zhang RJ, Jin ZD, Shen ZX, Chen GC, Kang YM, Zou SC, Zhang LZ, Qi SH, Dai MH, Cheng Y, Hu K (2007) Spatial and seasonal distributions of carbonaceous aerosols over China. J Geophys Res-Atmos 112:D22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cao JJ, Shen ZX, Chow JC, Watson JG, Lee SC, Tie XX, Ho KF, Wang GH, Han YM (2012a) Winter and summer PM2.5 chemical compositions in fourteen Chinese cities. J Air Waste Manage Assoc 62:1214–1226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cao JJ, Wang QY, Chow JC, Watson JG, Tie XX, Shen ZX, Wang P, An ZS (2012b) Impacts of aerosol compositions on visibility impairment in Xi’an, China. Atmos Environ 59:559–566CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Charrier JG, McFall AS, Richards-Henderson NK, Anastasio C (2014) Hydrogen peroxide formation in a surrogate lung fluid by transition metals and quinones present in particulate matter. Environ Sci Technol 48:7010–7017CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chuang KJ, Chan CC, Su TC, Lee CT, Tang CS (2007) The effect of urban air pollution on inflammation, oxidative stress, coagulation, and autonomic dysfunction in young adults. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 176:370–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chuang HC, Jones TP, Lung SCC, BeruBe KA (2011) Soot-driven reactive oxygen species formation from incense burning. Sci Total Environ 409:4781–4787CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chuang HC, Fan CW, Chen KY, Chang-Chien GP, Chan CC (2012) Vasoactive alteration and inflammation induced by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and trace metals of vehicle exhaust particles. Toxicol Lett 214:131–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Chuang HC, Jones T, Chen TT, BeruBe K (2013) Cytotoxic effects of incense particles in relation to oxidative stress, the cell cycle and F-actin assembly. Toxicol Lett 220:229–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Daher N, Saliba NA, Shihadeh AL, Jaafar M, Baalbaki R, Shafer MM, Schauer JJ, Sioutas C (2014) Oxidative potential and chemical speciation of size-resolved particulate matter (PM) at near-freeway and urban background sites in the greater Beirut area. Sci Total Environ 470:417–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Deng XB, Zhang F, Rui W, Long F, Wang LJ, Feng ZH, Chen DL, Ding WJ (2013) PM2.5-induced oxidative stress triggers autophagy in human lung epithelial A549 cells. Toxicol in Vitro 27:1762–1770CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dilger M, Orasche J, Zimmermann R, Paur HR, Diabate S, Weiss C (2016) Toxicity of wood smoke particles in human A549 lung epithelial cells: the role of PAHs, soot and zinc. Arch Toxicol 90:3029–3044CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Diociaiuti M, Balduzzi M, De Berardis B, Cattani C, Stacchini G, Ziemacki G, Marconi A, Paoletti L (2001) The two PM2.5 (fine) and PM2.5–10 (coarse) fractions: evidence of different biological activity. Environ Res 86(3):254–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ho K-F, Chang C-C, Tian L, Chan C-S, Musa Bandowe BA, Lui K-H, Lee K-Y, Chuang K-J, Liu C-Y, Ning Z, Chuang H-C (2016a) Effects of polycyclic aromatic compounds in fine particulate matter generated from household coal combustion on response to EGFR mutations in vitro. Environ Pollut 218:1262–1269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ho K-F, Ho SSH, Huang R-J, Chuang H-C, Cao J-J, Han Y, Lui K-H, Ning Z, Chuang K-J, Cheng T-J, Lee S-C, Hu D, Wang B, Zhang R (2016b) Chemical composition and bioreactivity of PM2.5 during 2013 haze events in China. Atmos Environ 126:162–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hong ZY, Hong YW, Zhang H, Chen JS, Xu LL, Deng JJ, Du WJ, Zhang YR, Xiao H (2017) Pollution characteristics and source apportionment of PM2.5-bound n-alkanes in the Yangtze River Delta, China. Aerosol Air Qual Res 17:1985–1998CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jalava PI, Hirvonen MR, Sillanpää M, Pennanen AS, Happo MS, Hillamo R, Cassee FR, Gerlofs-Nijland M, Borm PJA, Schins RPF, Janssen NA, Salonen RO (2009) Associations of urban air particulate composition with inflammatory and cytotoxic responses in RAW 246.7 cell line. Inhal Toxicol 21(12):994–1006CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kroll A, Gietl JK, Wiesmuller GA, Gunsel A, Wohlleben W, Schnekenburger J, Klemm O (2013) In vitro toxicology of ambient particulate matter: correlation of cellular effects with particle size and components. Environ Toxicol 28:76–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kwon S, George SC (1999) Synergistic cytokine-induced nitric oxide production in human alveolar epithelial cells. Nitric Oxide Biol Chem 3:348–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kwon S, Newcomb RL, George SC (2001) Mechanisms of synergistic cytokine-induced nitric oxide production in human alveolar epithelial cells. Nitric Oxide Biol Chem 5:534–546CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Leung PY, Wan HT, Billah MB, Cao JJ, Ho KF, Wong CKC (2014) Chemical and biological characterization of air particulate matter 2.5, collected from five cities in China. Environ Pollut 194:188–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lim JM, Jeong JH, Lee JH, Moon JH, Chung YS, Kim KH (2011) The analysis of PM2.5 and associated elements and their indoor/outdoor pollution status in an urban area. Indoor Air 21:145–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lim SS, Vos T, Flaxman AD, Danaei G, Shibuya K, Adair-Rohani H, Amann M, Anderson HR, Andrews KG, Aryee M et al (2012) A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990-2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. Lancet 380:2224–2260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Limbach LK, Wick P, Manser P, Grass RN, Bruinink A, Stark WJ (2007) Exposure of engineered nanoparticles to human lung epithelial cells: influence of chemical composition and catalytic activity on oxidative stress. Environ Sci Technol 41:4158–4163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lin LY, Liu IJ, Chuang HC, Lin HY, Chuang KJ (2013) Size and composition effects of household particles on inflammation and endothelial dysfunction of human coronary artery endothelial cells. Atmos Environ 77:490–495CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Long CM, Suh HH, Koutrakis P (2000) Characterization of indoor particle sources using continuous mass and size monitors. J Air Waste Manage Assoc 50:1236–1250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lui KH, Chan CS, Tian LW, Ning BF, Zhou YP, Song XL, Li JW, Cao JJ, Lee SC, Ho KF (2017) Elements in Fine Particulate Matter (PM $$_{2.5}) from Indoor Air During Household Stoves Coal Combustion at Xuanwei, China. Aerosol Sci Eng 1:41–50Google Scholar
  35. Ma J, Xu X, Zhao C, Yan P (2012) A review of atmospheric chemistry research in China: photochemical smog, haze pollution, and gas-aerosol interactions. Adv Atmos Sci 29:1006–1026CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Morawska L, Afshari A, Bae GN, Buonanno G, Chao CYH, Hanninen O, Hofmann W, Isaxon C, Jayaratne ER, Pasanen P, Salthammer T, Waring M, Wierzbicka A (2013) Indoor aerosols: from personal exposure to risk assessment. Indoor Air 23:462–487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nam HY, Choi BH, Lee JY, Lee SG, Kim YH, Lee KH, Yoon HK, Song JS, Kim HJ, Lim Y (2004) The role of nitric oxide in the particulate matter (PM2.5)-induced NF kappa B activation in lung epithelial cells. Toxicol Lett 148:95–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. National Bureau of Statistics of China (2012) China Stastical YearbookGoogle Scholar
  39. Perez-Padilla R, Schilmann A, Riojas-Rodriguez H (2010) Respiratory health effects of indoor air pollution. Int J Tuberc Lung Dis 14:1079–1086Google Scholar
  40. Shen HY, Anastasio C (2012) A comparison of hydroxyl radical and hydrogen peroxide generation in ambient particle extracts and laboratory metal solutions. Atmos Environ 46:665–668CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Shen ZX, Arimoto R, Cao JJ, Zhang RJ, Li XX, Du N, Okuda T, Nakao S, Tanaka S (2008) Seasonal variations and evidence for the effectiveness of pollution controls on water-soluble inorganic species in total suspended particulates and fine particulate matter from Xi’an, China. J Air Waste Manage Assoc 58(12):1560–1570CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Shen Z, Cao J, Arimoto R, Han Z, Zhang R, Han Y, Liu SX, Okuda T, Nakao S, Tanaka S (2009) Ionic composition of TSP and PM2. 5 during dust storms and air pollution episodes at Xi’an. China Atmos Environ 43(18):2911–2918Google Scholar
  43. Sun B, Fang T (2001) Desertification in China and its control. Sustainable land use in deserts. Springer, Berlin, pp 418–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Verma V, Polidori A, Schauer JJ, Shafer MM, Cassee FR, Sioutas C (2009) Physicochemical and toxicological profiles of particulate matter in Los Angeles during the October 2007 Southern California Wildfires. Environ Sci Technol 43:954–960CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wang P, Cao JJ, Shen ZX, Han YM, Lee SC, Huang Y, Zhu CS, Wang QY, Xu HM, Huang RJ (2015) Spatial and seasonal variations of PM2. 5 mass and species during 2010 in Xi’an, China. Sci Total Environ 508:477–487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Watson JG, Chow JC, Houck JE (2001) PM2.5 chemical source profiles for vehicle exhaust, vegetative burning, geological material, and coal burning in Northwestern Colorado during 1995. Chemosphere 43:1141–1151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. WHO (2013) Review of evidence on health aspects of air pollution—REVIHAAP project: final technical report. The WHO European Centre for Environment and Health, Bonn.Google Scholar
  48. WHO (2016) Ambient air pollution: a global assessment of exposure and burden of disease.
  49. Zhang T, Cao JJ, Tie XX, Shen ZX, Liu SX, Ding H, Han YM, Wang GH, Ho KF, Qiang J, Li WT (2011) Water-soluble ions in atmospheric aerosols measured in Xi’an, China: seasonal variations and sources. Atmos Res 102:110–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Zhang Y, Tian J, Shen ZX, Wang WJ, Ni HY, Liu SX, Cao JJ (2018) Emission characteristics of PM 2.5 and trace gases from household wood burning in Guanzhong Plain, Northwest China. Aerosol Sci Eng 2(3):130–140Google Scholar
  51. Zhu Z, Wang T (1993) Trends of desertification and its rehabilitation in China. Desertification Control Bull 22:27–30Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary CareThe Chinese University of Hong KongHong KongChina
  2. 2.Key Lab of Aerosol Chemistry & Physics, Institute of Earth EnvironmentChinese Academy of SciencesXi’anChina
  3. 3.State Key Lab of Loess and Quaternary Geology (SKLLQG), Institute of Earth EnvironmentChinese Academy of SciencesXi’anChina
  4. 4.School of Human Settlements and Civil EngineeringXi’an Jiaotong UniversityXi’anChina

Personalised recommendations