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Human exposure to airborne ultrafine (<1 µm) particulate pollution may pose substantial hazard to human health, particularly in urban roadside environments where very large numbers of people are frequently exposed to vehicle-derived ultrafine particles (UFPs). For mitigation purposes, it is timely and important to quantify the deposition of traffic-derived UFPs onto leaves of selected plant species, with particularly efficient particle capture (high deposition velocity), and which can be installed kerbside, proximal to the emitting vehicular sources. Here, we quantify the size-resolved capture efficiency of UFPs from a diesel vehicle exhaust by nine temperate-zone plant species, in wind tunnel experiments. The results show that silver birch (79% UFP removal), yew (71%) and elder (70.5%) have very high capability for capture of airborne UFPs. Metal concentrations and metal enrichment ratios in leaf leachates were also highest for the post-exposure silver birch leaves; scanning electron microscopy shows UFPs concentrated along the hairs of these leaves. For all but two species, magnetic measurements demonstrate substantial increases in the concentration of magnetic particles deposited on the leaves after exposure to the exhaust particulates. Together, these new data show that leaf-deposition of UFPs is chiefly responsible for the substantial reductions in particle numbers measured downwind of the vegetation. It is critical to recognise that the deposition velocity of airborne particulate matter (PM) to leaves is species-specific; and often substantially higher (~10 to 50 times higher) than the 'standard' Vd values (e.g. 0.1 - 0.64 cm s-1 for PM2.5) used in most modelling studies. The use of such low Vd values in models results in major under-estimation of PM removal by roadside vegetation, and thus misrepresents the efficacy of selected vegetation species for substantial (> 20%) removal of PM. Given the potential hazard to health posed by UFPs, and the removal efficiencies shown here (and by previous roadside measurements), roadside planting at PM 'hotspots' of selected species (maintained at or below head height) can contribute substantially and quickly to improvement in urban air quality, and reductions in human exposure. These findings can contribute to development and implementation of mitigation policies of traffic-derived PM on an international scale.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Environmental science & technology
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