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Exposure to air pollution has been shown to adversely affect foetal development in the case of pregnant women. The present study aims to investigate the PM composition and sources influencing personal exposure of pregnant women in Barcelona. To this end, indoor, outdoor and personal exposure measurements were carried out for a selection of 54 pregnant women between November 2008 and November 2009. PM2.5 samples were collected during two consecutive days and then analysed for black smoke (BS), major and trace elements, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) concentrations. Personal information such as commuting patterns and cosmetics use was also collected. PM2.5 concentrations were higher for personal samples than for indoor and outdoor environments. Indoor, outdoor and personal BS and sulphate concentrations were strongly correlated, although some specific indoor and outdoor sulphate sources may exist. Average trace elements concentrations were similar indoor, outdoor and for personal exposure, but the correlations were moderate for most of them. Most of the PAHs concentrations showed strong correlations indoor–outdoor. A source apportionment analysis of the PM composition data by means of a Positive Matrix Factorization (PMF) resulted in the identification of six sources for the outdoor and indoor environments: secondary sulphate, fueloil + sea salt (characterized by V, Ni, Na and Mg), mineral, cigarette (characterized by K, Ce, Cd, benzo(k)fluoranthene and benzo(ghi)perylene), road traffic (characterized by BS and low weight PAHs), and industrial (characterized by Pb, Sn, Cu, Mn and Fe). For personal exposure two specific sources were found: cosmetics (characterized by abundance of Ca, Li, Ti and Sr and the absence of Al) and train/subway (characterized by Fe, Mn, Cu and Ba). The contribution of the sources varied widely among women, especially for cigarette (from zero to up to 4 μg m−3), train/subway (up to more than 6 μg m−3) and cosmetics (up to more than 5 μg m−3). The source contributions showed generally strong correlations indoor–outdoor although the infiltration efficiencies varied among homes. This study emphasizes the importance of relying on personal exposure in epidemiological studies assessing the impact of air pollution on human health.


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

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Journal Article

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