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Clean Air Journal

On-line version ISSN 2410-972X
Print version ISSN 1017-1703


MOLETSANE, Simon D. et al. Intra-urban variability of PM2.5 in a dense, low-income settlement on the South African Highveld. Clean Air J. [online]. 2021, vol.31, n.1, pp.1-9. ISSN 2410-972X.

High concentrations of the ambient particulate matter remain a concern on the South African Highveld, particularly in densely populated low-income settlements. These areas have several local emission sources that contribute to poor air quality and are often located close to industrial and other urban areas. The local sources vary in magnitude, space, and time. In South Africa, little has been done to assess the impacts of spatiotemporal variability on the credibility of using isolated ambient observations for regulatory purposes. This study aims to evaluate the intra-urban variability of ambient PM25 concentrations in a dense, low-income community. Ambient fine particulate matter (PM25) in distinct microenvironments of KwaZamokuhle were simultaneously measured at 4 sites between March and June 2018. These measurements were collected using one permanent ambient monitoring station (AMS) and a temporary network of three E-BAM monitors (Site 2, Site 3, and Site 4). Moreover, the 2011 Census spatial data was used to assess socioeconomic conditions impacting PM25 concentrations in areas surrounding each monitoring station. The daily PM25 concentrations at AMS, Site 2, Site 3, and Site 4 varied from 10 to 86 μg.m-3, 10 to 103 μg.m-3, 11 to 101 μg.m-3, and 9 to 113 μg.m-3, respectively. Extreme PM25 concentrations which exceeded the 24h PM25 NAAQS of 40 μg.m-3 were seen during the cold period (May and June); meanwhile, the warm period (March and April) recorded relatively lower PM25 episodes across different sections of KwaZamokuhle. During May-June, the highest diurnal concentrations of hourly averaged ambient PM25 were recorded at Site 4, in a downward sequence, followed by Site 3, Site 2, and AMS. It was further found that informal dwellings and solid fuel reliant houses are widely concentrated at Site 4 thus, indicating exposure inequalities across the community. This study, therefore, highlights the complexity of quantifying ambient air quality in an area where several local emission sources vary in space and time. Attempts to use monitoring data from a single station to assess ambient air quality, quantify human exposure, or evaluate the potential impacts of mitigation strategies in dense, low-income settlements should be done with care.

Keywords : fine particulate matter; household air pollution; low-income settlements; South African Highveld; air quality management.

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