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Sci Rep. 2016 Apr 14;6:24427. doi: 10.1038/srep24427.

Mineral dust aerosols promote the formation of toxic nitropolycyclic aromatic compounds.

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Graduate School of Energy Science, Kyoto University, Yoshida-Honmachi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan.
Institute of Medical, Pharmaceutical and Health Sciences, Kanazawa University, Kakuma-machi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-1192, Japan.
Institute of Nature and Environmental Technology, Kanazawa University, Kakuma-machi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-1192, Japan.


Atmospheric nitrated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (NPAHs), which have been shown to have adverse health effects such as carcinogenicity, are formed in part through nitration reactions of their parent polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the atmosphere. However, little is known about heterogeneous nitration rates of PAHs by gaseous NO2 on natural mineral substrates, such as desert dust aerosols. Herein by employing kinetic experiments using a flow reactor and surface analysis by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy with pyridine adsorption, we demonstrate that the reaction is accelerated on acidic surfaces of mineral dust, particularly on those of clay minerals. In support of this finding, we show that levels of ambient particle-associated NPAHs in Beijing, China, significantly increased during heavy dust storms. These results suggest that mineral dust surface reactions are an unrecognized source of toxic organic chemicals in the atmosphere and that they enhance the toxicity of mineral dust aerosols in urban environments.

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