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Seasonal Variations, Source Apportionment, and Health Risk Assessment of Heavy Metals in PM2.5 in Ningbo, China

Category: Air Pollution and Health Effects

Volume: 19 | Issue: 9 | Pages: 2083-2092
DOI: 10.4209/aaqr.2018.12.0452

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To cite this article:
Wu, Y., Lu, B., Zhu, X., Wang, A., Yang, M., Gu, S., Wang, X., Leng, P., Zierold, K.M., Li, X., Tang, K.K., Fang, L., Huang, R., Xu, G. and Chen, L. (2019). Seasonal Variations, Source Apportionment, and Health Risk Assessment of Heavy Metals in PM2.5 in Ningbo, China. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 19: 2083-2092. doi: 10.4209/aaqr.2018.12.0452.

Yue Wu1, Beibei Lu2, Xinlei Zhu3, Aihong Wang2, Meng Yang4, Shaohua Gu2, Xiaoxia Wang5, Pengbo Leng2, Kristina M. Zierold6, Xiaohai Li2, Ke Kerri Tang6, Lanyun Fang2, Ruixue Huang1, Guozhang Xu 2, Lv Chen 1

  • 1 Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, Xiangya School of Public Health, Central South University, Changsha 410078, China
  • 2 Zhejiang Provincial Key Laboratory of Health Risk Appraisal for Trace Toxic Chemicals, Ningbo Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Ningbo 315010, China
  • 3 School of Public Health, Fudan University, Shanghai 200032, China
  • 4 Department of Environment Health, School of Public Health, Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou 450001, China
  • 5 Reproductive Medicine Center, Xiangya Hospital, Central South University, Changsha 410078, China
  • 6 Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 35233, USA


  • The concentrations of PM2.5 and total heavy metals were highest in winter.
  • Major pollution sources were coal combustion and motor vehicles and dust.
  • The total non-carcinogenic risk was higher than the safe level.


In order to assess the seasonal variations, potential sources, and health risks of heavy metals in fine particulate matter (PM2.5), PM2.5 samples (n = 96) were collected between March 2015 and February 2016 in Ningbo, China. Twelve heavy metals (Sb, As, Cd, Cr, Pb, Mn, Ni, Se, Tl, Al, Be, and Hg) found in the PM2.5 were analyzed by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). We used enrichment factors and principal component analysis/absolute principal component scores (PCA/APCS) to determine the sources of these heavy metals, and models from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assess both the carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic risks to adults and children. Results showed that the average annual mass concentration of the PM2.5 was 62.7 µg m–3, which exceeded the limit specified in the Chinese National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The average annual concentrations of the Pb, Cd, and As were 57.2 ng m–3, 1.5 ng m–3, and 4.7 ng m–3, respectively, which were below the NAAQS limits. The highest total concentrations for the heavy metals occurred in winter, whereas the lowest concentrations were observed in summer. Enrichment factor analysis indicated that the Sb, Cd, Pb, Se, As, and Tl were mainly from anthropogenic sources. Additionally, source apportionment by PCA/APCS identified four major sources for the studied metals: coal combustion and motor vehicles (46.3%), soil and construction dust (37.1%), steelworks (6.9%), and other smelting industries (6.8%). The carcinogenic risk of heavy metals in Ningbo fell within the safe level of exposure for both children and adults. However, the total non-carcinogenic risk exceeded the safe level (HI = 1.38), which warrants further research on sources of air pollution and measures for controlling pollutants in Ningbo, China.


PM2.5 Heavy metal Enrichment factor Principal component analysis/absolute principal component scores Health risk assessment

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