Fine particulate matter and its chemical constituents' levels: A troubling environmental and human health situation in Karachi, Pakistan

Document Type



Community Health Sciences


Like many urban centers in developing countries, the effect of air pollution in Karachi is understudied. The goal of this study was to determine the chemical characterization, temporal and seasonal variability, sources, and health impacts of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in Karachi, Pakistan. Daily samples of PM2.5 were collected using a low-volume air sampler at two different sites (Makro and Karachi University) over the four seasons between October 2009 and August 2010. Samples were analyzed for black carbon (BC), trace metals, and water-soluble ions. Results showed that the annual average concentrations of PM2.5 at Makro and Karachi University were 114 ± 115 and 71.7 ± 56.4 μg m-3, respectively, about 22.8 and 14.3-fold higher than the World Health Organization annual guideline of 5 μg m-3. BC concentrations were 3.39 ± 1.97 and 2.70 ± 2.06 μg m-3, respectively. The concentrations of PM2.5, BC, trace metals, and ions at the two sites showed clear seasonal trends, with higher concentrations in winter and lower concentrations in summer. The trace metals and ionic species with the highest concentrations were Pb, S, Zn, Ca, Si, Cl, Fe, and SO42-. The air quality index in the fall and winter at both sites was about 68 %, which is "unhealthy" for the general population. Positive Matrix Factorization revealed the overall contribution to PM2.5 at the Makro site came from three major sources - industrial emissions (13.3 %), vehicular emissions (59.1 %), and oil combustion (23.3 %). The estimates of expected number of deaths due to short-term exposure to PM2.5 were high in the fall and winter at both sites, with an annual mean estimate of 3592 expected number of deaths at the Makro site. Attention should be paid to the reduction of inorganic pollutants from industrial facilities, vehicular traffic, and fossil fuel combustion, due to their extremely high contribution to PM2.5 mass and health risks.


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The Science of the total environment