Barbara Błaszczak This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Natalia Zioła, Barbara Mathews, Krzysztof Klejnowski, Krzysztof Słaby

Institute of Environmental Engineering of the Polish Academy of Sciences, 41-819 Zabrze, Poland


Received: January 10, 2020
Revised: June 5, 2020
Accepted: August 5, 2020

 Copyright The Author's institutions. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are cited. 

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Barbara, B., Zioła, N., Mathews, B., Klejnowski, K. and Słaby, K. (2020). The Role of PM2.5 Chemical Composition and Meteorology during High Pollution Periods at a Suburban Background Station in Southern Poland. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 20: 2433–2447.


  • Periods of elevated PM5 concentrations exert a critical impact on low air quality.
  • High concentrations of PM5 were caused by secondary aerosol, mainly SOC.
  • Specific weather conditions favor the formation of PM5 episodes.
  • Regional and long-range transport events affect high levels of analyzed substances.


This study conducted measurements of PM2.5 (particulate matter with a diameter ≤ 2.5 µm) in Racibórz, Poland, during 2018. Samples were collected daily and analyzed for their chemical composition, specifically, the carbonaceous (elemental and organic carbon) and water-soluble ionic (Cl, NO3, SO42–, Na+, NH4+, K+, Ca2+ and Mg2+) components. Additionally, the secondary inorganic aerosol (SIA) as well as the secondary and primary organic carbon (SOC and POC, respectively) content was estimated. To identify the causes of elevated PM2.5 concentrations, the contributions of these chemical species were further investigated, and the role of meteorological factors was also examined. During the measurement period, PM2.5 concentrations exceeding 50 µg m–3 were recorded on 38 days, and 7 pollution episodes were detected. Such events, however, were observed only in the heating season, when stable meteorological conditions (low air temperatures, weak winds, high relative humidity and lack of precipitation) and increased emissions of PM and its precursors from anthropogenic sources favored the accumulation of pollutants. The PM2.5 was dominated by carbonaceous aerosol, especially POC, although the SOC rose significantly during high pollution periods. Furthermore, the fraction of SIA clearly decreased as the concentration of PM2.5 increased, and its variability was greatly affected by regional and/or long-range transport events. Our results can help guide the development of effective strategies for reducing air pollution from fine particulate matter. Such control measures are particularly important in Poland, where PM2.5 concentrations remain high compared to many European countries.

Keywords: PM2.5; High pollution days; carbonaceous aerosol; Primary and secondary organic carbon; Secondary inorganic aerosol, meteorology.

Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 20 :2433 -2447 .  

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