The oxidative potential of PM2.5 exposures from indoor and outdoor sources in rural China

Matthew H. Secrest, James J. Schauer, Ellison M. Carter, Alexandra M. Lai, Yuqin Wang, Ming Shan, Xudong Yang, Yuanxun Zhang, Jill Baumgartner

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43 Scopus citations


Background Airborne particulate matter (PM) is a widespread environmental exposure and leading health risk factor. The health effects of PM may be mediated by its oxidative potential; however, the combustion and non-combustion sources and components of PM responsible for its oxidative potential are poorly understood, particularly in low- and middle-income rural settings where coal and biomass burning for cooking and heating contribute to PM exposure. Methods We measured 24-h personal exposures to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) of 20 rural women in northern (Inner Mongolia) and southern (Sichuan) Chinese provinces who used solid fuels (i.e., coal, biomass). PM2.5 exposures were characterized for mass, black carbon, water-soluble organic carbon, major water-soluble ions, and 47 elements. The oxidative potential of PM2.5 exposures was measured using acellular (dithiothreitol-based) and cellular (macrophage-based) assays. We performed factor and correlation analyses using the chemical components of PM2.5 to identify sources of exposure to PM2.5 and their chemical markers. Associations between oxidative potential and chemical markers for major sources of PM2.5 exposure were assessed using linear regression models. Results Women's geometric mean PM2.5 exposures were 249 μg m− 3 (range: 53.9–767) and 83.9 μg m− 3 (range: 73.1–95.5) in Inner Mongolia and Sichuan, respectively. Dust, biomass combustion, and coal combustion were identified as the major sources of exposure to PM2.5. Markers for dust (iron, aluminum) were significantly associated with intrinsic oxidative potential [e.g., one interquartile range increase in iron (ppm) was associated with an 85.5% (95% CI: 21.5, 149) increase in cellular oxidative potential (μg Zymosan mg− 1)], whereas markers for coal (arsenic, non-sulfate sulfur) and biomass (black carbon, cadmium) combustion were not associated with oxidative potential. Conclusions Dust was largely responsible for the intrinsic oxidative potential of PM2.5 exposures of rural Chinese women, whereas biomass and coal combustion were not significantly associated with intrinsic oxidative potential.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1477-1489
Number of pages13
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Nov 15 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the study participants, our field staff and Martin Shafer, Jocelyn Hemming and Dagmara Antkiewicz for assistance with the metals, DTT and ROS analyses. This publication was made possible by EPA-STAR grant number # R83542 . Its contents are solely the responsibility of the grantee and do not necessarily represent the official views of the EPA. Further, the EPA does not endorse the purchase of any commercial products or services mentioned in the publication. Travel support for M.S. was provided by McGill Global Health and Mitacs Globalink (FR11423). J.B. is supported by a CIHR New Investigator Award.


  • Chemical speciation
  • Exposure assessment
  • Household air pollution
  • Reactive oxygen species
  • Redox activity
  • Solid fuel


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