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A Novel Method of Collecting and Chemically Characterizing Milligram Quantities of Indoor Airborne Particulate Matter

Category: Aerosol and Atmospheric Chemistry

Volume: 19 | Issue: 11 | Pages: 2387-2395
DOI: 10.4209/aaqr.2019.04.0182
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To cite this article:
Parker, G.J., Ong, C.H., Manges, R.B., Stapleton, E.M., Comellas, A.P., Peters, T.M., Stone, E.A. (2019). A Novel Method of Collecting and Chemically Characterizing Milligram Quantities of Indoor Airborne Particulate Matter. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. Volume: 2613-2624. doi: 10.4209/aaqr.2019.04.0182.

Gavin J. Parker1, Chun H. Ong2, Robert B. Manges3, Emma M. Stapleton3, Alejandro P. Comellas3, Thomas M. Peters 2, Elizabeth A. Stone 2

  • 1 Department of Chemistry, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA
  • 2 Occupational and Environmental Health, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA
  • 3 Department of Internal Medicine, Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA


  • A method was developed to collect milligrams of indoor particulate matter.
  • Collection efficiency and particulate recovery were characterized.
  • Samplers were successfully deployed in 21 homes.
  • Particulate metals were dominated by crustal elements.


Because people spend the majority of the day indoors, it is important to evaluate indoor air, especially airborne particulate matter (PM), for its potential health effects. However, collecting milligram-sized samples of indoor PM, which are necessary for detailed chemical and biological assays, remains challenging because of the noise, power requirements, and size of traditional PM samplers. Therefore, we developed a novel method of collection using an electrostatic precipitator (ESP). Laboratory experiments were conducted to characterize the ESP collection efficiency (41–65%) and PM recovery (50–95%) for three aerosol types. After characterization, the ESPs were deployed in 21 homes in eastern Iowa for 30 days, during which they collected 6–87 mg of indoor PM. The samples were acid digested and subsequently analyzed by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry for their magnesium, aluminum, vanadium, manganese, iron, nickel, copper, zinc, arsenic, and lead content. Crustal metals (magnesium, iron, and aluminum), ranging from 3,000 to 25,000 ng mg–1 in concentration, contributed the largest mass fractions of the PM. The relative abundances of the metals were similar between homes, although the PM mass fractions were highly variable. This ESP sampling method can be applied in future studies to collect milligram-sized quantities of indoor PM, enabling a detailed analysis of its composition and potential health effects.


Indoor air Particulate matter Electrostatic precipitation Metals

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