Special Issue on 2022 Asian Aerosol Conference (AAC 2022)

Chuan-Hsiu Huang1, Yi-Ru Ko  1, Tzu-Chi Lin1, Yu-Hsiang Cheng2,3, Yu-Cheng Chen4,5, Yu-Chieh Ting  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.1 

1 Graduate Institute of Environmental Engineering, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
2 Department of Safety, Health and Environmental Engineering, Ming Chi University of Technology, New Taipei, Taiwan
3 Center for Environmental Sustainability and Human Health, Ming Chi University of Technology, New Taipei, Taiwan
4 National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Health Research Institutes, Miaoli, Taiwan
5 Department of Occupational Safety and Health, China Medical University, Taichung, Taiwan

Received: September 22, 2022
Revised: December 22, 2022
Accepted: February 27, 2023

 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.220329  

Cite this article:

Huang, C.H., Ko, Y.R., Lin, T.C., Cheng, Y.H., Chen, Y.C., Ting, Y.C. (2023). Implications of the Improvement in Atmospheric Fine Particles: A Case Study of COVID-19 Pandemic in Northern Taiwan. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.220329


  • Better air quality was observed during Level 3 alert period in Taipei.
  • Secondary nitrate could be well controlled with the decline of traffic.
  • The health risks induced by trace elements were mainly due to industrial activities.
  • The portion of carbonaceous aerosols in PM2.5 increased during Level 3 alert period.


The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in northern Taiwan led to the implementation of Level 3 alert measures during 2021 and thereby impacted the air quality significantly, which provided an unprecedented opportunity to better understand the control strategies on air pollutants in the future. This study investigated the variations in sources, chemical characteristics and human health risks of PM2.5 comprehensively. The PM2.5 mass concentrations decreased from pre-alert to Level 3 alert by 49.4%, and the inorganic ions, i.e., NH4+, NO3- and SO42-, dropped even more by 71%, 90% and 52%, respectively. Nonetheless, organic matter (OM) and elemental carbon (EC) simply decreased by 36% and 13%, which caused the chemical composition of PM2.5 to change so that the carbonaceous matter in PM2.5 dominated instead of the inorganic ions. Correlation-based hierarchical clustering analysis further showed that PM2.5 was clustered with carbonaceous matter during the Level 3 alert, while that clustered with inorganic ions during both pre-alert and post-alert periods. Moreover, 6 sources of PM2.5 were identified by positive matrix factorization (PMF), in which secondary nitrate (i.e., aging traffic aerosols) exhibited the most significant decrease and yet primary traffic-related emissions, dominated by carbonaceous matter, changed insignificantly. This implied that secondary traffic-related aerosols could be easily controlled when traffic volume declined, while primary traffic source needs more efforts in the future, especially for the reduction of carbonaceous matter. Therefore, cleaner energy for vehicles is still needed. Assessments of both carcinogenic risk and non-carcinogenic risk induced by the trace elements in PM2.5 showed insignificant decrease, which can be attributed to the factories that did not shut down during Level 3 alert. This study serves as a metric to underpin the mitigation strategies of air pollution in the future and highlights the importance of carbonaceous matter for the reduction in PM2.5.

Keywords: COVID-19 Level 3 alert, PM2.5, Chemical composition, Source apportionment, Mitigation strategies

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