First results of the "Carbonaceous Aerosol in Rome and Environs (CARE)" Experiment: Beyond current standards for PM

Francesca Costabile, Honey Alas, Michaela Aufderheide, Pasquale Avino, Fulvio Amato, Stefania Argentini, Francesca Barnaba, Massimo Berico, Vera Bernardoni, Riccardo Biondi, Giulia Calzolai, Silvia Canepari, Giampietro Casasanta, Spartaco Ciampichetti, Alessandro Conidi, Eugenia Cordelli, Antonio Di Ianni, Luca Di Liberto, Maria Cristina Facchini, Andrea FacciDaniele Frasca, Stefania Gilardoni, Maria Giuseppa Grollino, Maurizio Gualtieri, Franco Lucarelli, Antonella Malaguti, Maurizio Manigrasso, Mauro Montagnoli, Silvia Nava, Elio Padoan, Cinzia Perrino, Ettore Petralia, Igor Petenko, Xavier Querol, Giulia Simonetti, Giovanna Tranfo, Stefano Ubertini, Gianluigi Valli, Sara Valentini, Roberta Vecchi, Francesca Volpi, Kay Weinhold, Alfred Wiedensholer, Gabriele Zanini, Gian Paolo Gobbi

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In February 2017 the "Carbonaceous Aerosol in Rome and Environs (CARE)" experiment was carried out in downtown Rome to address the following specific questions: what is the color, size, composition, and toxicity of the carbonaceous aerosol in the Mediterranean urban background area of Rome? The motivation of this experiment is the lack of understanding of what aerosol types are responsible for the severe risks to human health posed by particulate matter (PM) pollution, and how carbonaceous aerosols influence radiative balance. Physicochemical properties of the carbonaceous aerosol were characterised, and relevant toxicological variables assessed. The aerosol characterisation includes: (i) measurements with high time resolution (min to 1-2 h) at a fixed location of black carbon (eBC), elemental carbon (EC), organic carbon (OC), particle number size distribution (0.008-10 μm), major non refractory PM1components, elemental composition, wavelength-dependent optical properties, and atmospheric turbulence; (ii) 24-h measurements of PM10and PM2.5mass concentration, water soluble OC and brown carbon (BrC), and levoglucosan; (iii) mobile measurements of eBC and size distribution around the study area, with computational fluid dynamics modeling; (iv) characterisation of road dust emissions and their EC and OC content. The toxicological assessment includes: (i) preliminary evaluation of the potential impact of ultrafine particles on lung epithelia cells (cultured at the air liquid interface and directly exposed to particles); (ii) assessment of the oxidative stress induced by carbonaceous aerosols; (iii) assessment of particle size dependent number doses deposited in different regions of the human body; (iv) PAHs biomonitoring (from the participants into the mobile measurements). The first experimental results of the CARE experiment are presented in this paper. The objective here is to provide baseline levels of carbonaceous aerosols for Rome, and to address future research directions. First, we found that BC and EC mass concentration in Rome are larger than those measured in similar urban areas across Europe (the urban background mass concentration of eBC in Rome in winter being on average 2.6 ± 2.5 μg · m-3, mean eBC at the peak level hour being 5.2 (95% CI = 5.0-5.5) μg · m-3). Then, we discussed significant variations of carbonaceous aerosol properties occurring with time scales of minutes, and questioned on the data averaging period used in current air quality standard for PM10(24-h). Third, we showed that the oxidative potential induced by aerosol depends on particle size and composition, the effects of toxicity being higher with lower mass concentrations and smaller particle size. Albeit this is a preliminary analysis, findings reinforce the need for an urgent update of existing air quality standards for PM10and PM2.5with regard to particle composition and size distribution, and data averaging period. Our results reinforce existing concerns about the toxicity of carbonaceous aerosols, support the existing evidence indicating that particle size distribution and composition may play a role in the generation of this toxicity, and remark the need to consider a shorter averaging period ( < 1 h) in these new standards.
Original languageEnglish
Article number249
Pages (from-to)-
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Atmospheric Science

Cite this

Costabile, F., Alas, H., Aufderheide, M., Avino, P., Amato, F., Argentini, S., Barnaba, F., Berico, M., Bernardoni, V., Biondi, R., Calzolai, G., Canepari, S., Casasanta, G., Ciampichetti, S., Conidi, A., Cordelli, E., Ianni, A. D., Liberto, L. D., Facchini, M. C., ... Gobbi, G. P. (2017). First results of the "Carbonaceous Aerosol in Rome and Environs (CARE)" Experiment: Beyond current standards for PM. ATMOSPHERE, 8(12), -. [249].