Special Issue on Better Air Quality in Asia (II)

Tianchu Zhang, Yangfan Chen, Xiaohong Xu This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Windsor, Ontario, N9B 3P4, Canada


Received: March 21, 2020
Revised: June 30, 2020
Accepted: July 21, 2020

 Copyright The Author(s). 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.

Download Citation: ||https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.2020.03.0108  

Cite this article:

Zhang, T., Chen, Y. and Xu, X. (2020). Health Risk Assessment of PM2.5-bound Components in Beijing, China during 2013–2015. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 20: 1938–1949. https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.2020.03.0108


  • Lifetime cancer risk & noncancer hazard quotients (HQ) estimated in Beijing 2013–2015.
  • Lifetime cancer risk (1.9E-4) and HQ (18) were much higher than acceptable levels.
  • Fossil fuel combustion and vehicle exhaust are major courses to risks and HQ.
  • Seasonal variations in PM2.5 risks and sources due to more coal combustion in winter.
  • Respiratory system was most vulnerable, contributing 82% to HQ.


Risk assessment methods of the US Environment Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) were employed to estimate lifetime cancer risk in Beijing using the following fine particulate matter (PM2.5) components: six elements and 16 U.S. EPA priority polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and lifetime non-cancer hazard quotients (HQ) using 11 elements, based on data collected in Beijing during 2013–2015. The three-year average PM2.5 mass concentration was 82 µg m–3. Both lifetime cancer risk (1.9E-4) from exposure to ambient PM2.5-bound elements and PAHs and non-cancer HQ (18) from exposure to ambient PM2.5-bound elements in Beijing were much higher than the corresponding U.S. EPA acceptable levels. Cancer risks by source were, in descending order, road dust (7.3E-5), fossil fuel combustion (4.4E-5), vehicle exhaust (3.8E-5), soil dust (8.4E-6), metal processing (8.2E-6), secondary sulphur (8.0E-6), and biomass burning (6.4E-6). Cancer risks by PM2.5 component were, in descending order, As (1.1E-4), Cr(VI) (3.4E-5), total PAHs (1.5E-5), Pb (1.1E-5), Co (8.4E-6), Ni (3.9E-6), and Cd (3.9E-6). HQ by PM2.5-bound elements were, in descending order, Cl (14), As (1.8), Pb (0.94), P (0.81), Cd (0.22), Mn (0.22), Ni (0.18), Ba (0.1), Cr(VI) (0.03), Co (0.01), and Se (0.002). Fossil fuel combustion and vehicle exhaust were the top two sources, accounting for 77% of total HQ. HQ by target organ were, in descending order, respiratory (15), reproductive (1.8), nervous (1.2), renal (0.22), fetus (0.1), and alimentary system (0.002). The seasonal variations in PM2.5 mass concentrations, risks, as well as source and element contributions were largely due to increased coal combustion in winter.

Keywords: Cancer risk; Non-cancer hazard quotient; PM2.5; Element; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; Seasonal variation.

Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 20 :1938 -1949 . https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.2020.03.0108  

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