Comprehensive chemical characterization of PM2.5 in the large East Mediterranean-Middle East city of Beirut, Lebanon

Charbel Afif , Nansi Fakhri , Marc Fadel , Fatma Öztürk , Melek Keleş , Minas Iakovides , Michael Pikridas , Charbel Abdallah , Cyril Karam , Jean Sciare , Patrick L. Hayes


Received March 19, 2022,Revised , Accepted July 07, 2022, Available online July 20, 2022

Volume 35,2023,Pages 118-137

The chemical composition of PM2.5 at two sites in Lebanon, a country in the East Mediterranean - Middle East region, is investigated in the spring and summer seasons. The average PM2.5 concentrations were of (29 ± 16) µg/m3 for Beirut urban site and (32 ± 14) µg/m3 for Beirut suburban site. This study showed that the geographic location of the East Mediterranean region, such as its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea and the dust storm intrusion are a significant contributor to the high PM levels from natural sources, which cannot be mitigated, rendering the PM2.5 WHO annual Air Quality guideline unattainable due to high natural background, which also applies to the entire Middle East region. Turkey and Eastern Europe are the dominant origin of air masses throughout our sampling days, suggesting the long-range transport as an important potential contributor to the high observed concentrations of V, Ni, and sulfate in this region most probably in other East Mediterranean countries than Lebanon too. Main local sources determined through the chemical speciation including organics are road transport, resuspension of dust and diesel private generators. A health risk assessment of airborne metals was performed and the carcinogenic risk for all the metals exceeded by 42 (adults) and 14 (children) times the acceptable risk level (10−6) at both sites. Vanadium was the predominant carcinogenic metal, emphasizing the need to replace energy production with cleaner energy on a regional level and highlighting the severe impact of air pollution on the health of inhabitants in this region's main cities.

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