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A Novel Method to Collect and Chemically Characterize Milligram Quantities of Airborne Indoor Particulate Matter

Category: Aerosol and Atmospheric Chemistry

Accepted Manuscripts
DOI: 10.4209/aaqr.2019.04.0182
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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, indoor air quality, especially airborne particulate matter (PM), is important to evaluate for its potential health effects. Collection of milligram-sized samples of indoor PM is necessary for detailed chemical and biological assays, but is challenging because of the device noise levels, power requirements, and size of traditional PM samplers. To overcome this need, a novel method for the collection of indoor PM was developed using an electrostatic precipitator (ESP). Laboratory experiments were conducted to characterize 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 over 30 days and collected 6-87 mg of indoor PM. Samples were acid digested and subsequently analyzed by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry for magnesium, aluminum, vanadium, manganese, iron, nickel, copper, zinc, arsenic, and lead. Crustal metals (magnesium, iron, and aluminum) had the largest PM mass fractions, ranging from 3,000-25,000 ng mg-1. The relative abundance of metals was similar between homes, although the PM mass fractions were highly variable. The ESP sampling method can be applied in future studies to collect milligram-sized quantities of indoor PM for detailed studies of its composition and potential health effects.


Indoor air Particulate matter Electrostatic precipitation Metals

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