FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | September 01, 2022

Recent advances in air quality research

A deep breath of fresh air can feel restorative. However, if the air is polluted by airborne particles or volatile compounds, then breathing it in can be an unpleasant, or potentially harmful, experience. Below are some recent papers published in ACS journals that report insights into the sources and potential exposure risks of particulate matter and gases that affect air quality indoors and outdoors. Reporters can request free access to these papers by emailing

“Plastic Burning Impacts on Atmospheric Fine Particulate Matter at Urban and Rural Sites in the USA and Bangladesh”
ACS Environmental Au
June 9, 2022

Burning garbage, particularly plastic waste, releases particulate matter and toxic gases into the air. Here, researchers measured a molecular tracer for burned plastic in airborne particles collected at urban and rural locations in the U.S. and Bangladesh. They found that plastic burning was a minor source of particulate matter in the U.S., but in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the country’s capital, it contributed up to 15% of the particulate matter.

“Gas- and Particle-Phase Amide Emissions from Cooking: Mechanisms and Air Quality Impacts”
Environmental Science & Technology
June 7, 2022

In this study, researchers conducted lab experiments to investigate the compounds released by the high-temperature cooking of meats in oil. They heated amino acids, the building blocks of meat proteins, and different oils at 347 to 419 F. They found that amides, including some that are harmful to humans, were in both vapors and airborne particles. This food preparation method could contribute to poorer indoor and outdoor air quality and potential health risks if inhaled, the researchers say.

“Molecular Characterization of Organosulfate-Dominated Aerosols over Agricultural Fields from the Southern Great Plains by High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry”
ACS Earth and Space Chemistry
May 10, 2022

Here, researchers examined the molecular composition of aerosols — extremely small droplets — above crop fields, using high-resolution mass spectrometry. The aerosol composition followed diurnal cycles and was strongly affected by the wind’s direction, which episodically brought in urban emissions. The researchers say these results could have implications for local weather patterns, crop growth and human health.

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