Airborne ultrafine particles in a Pacific Island country: characteristics, sources and implications for human exposure

C. F. Isley*, P. F. Nelson, M. P. Taylor, M. Mazaheri, L. Morawska, A. J. Atanacio, E. Stelcer, D. D. Cohen, Anthony L. Morrison

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    The Pacific Islands carry a perception of having clean air, yet emissions from transport and burning activities are of concern in regard to air quality and health. Ultrafine particle number concentrations (PNCs), one of the best metrics to demonstrate combustion emissions, have not been measured either in Suva or elsewhere in the Islands. This work provides insight into PNC variation across Suva and its relationship with particle mass (PM) concentration and composition. Measurements over a short monitoring campaign provide a vignette of conditions in Suva. Ambient PNCs were monitored for 8 day at a fixed location, and mobile PNC sampling for two days. These were compared with PM concentration (TSP, PM10, PM2.5, PM1) and are discussed in relation to black carbon (BC) content and PM2.5 sources, determined from elemental concentrations; for the October 2015 period and longer-term data. Whilst Suva City PM levels remained fairly low, PM2.5 = 10–12 μg m−3, mean PNC (1.64 ± 0.02 × 104 cm−3) was high compared to global data. PNCs were greater during mobile sampling, with means of 10.3 ± 1.4 × 104 cm−3 and 3.51 ± 0.07 × 104 cm−3 when travelling by bus and taxi, respectively. Emissions from road vehicles, shipping, diesel and open burning were identified as PM sources for the October 2015 period. Transport related ultrafine particle emissions had a significant impact on microscale ambient concentrations, with PNCs near roads being 1.5 to 2 times higher than nearby outdoor locations and peak PNCs occurring during peak traffic times. Further data, particularly on transport and wet-season exposures, are required to confirm results. Understanding PNC in Suva will assist in formulating effective air emissions control strategies, potentially reducing population exposure across the Islands and in developing countries with similar emission characteristics. Suva's PNC was high in comparison to global data; high exposures were related to transport and combustion emissions, which were also identified as significant PM2.5 sources.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)367-378
    Number of pages12
    JournalEnvironmental Pollution
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


    • aerosol
    • PM2.5
    • ultrafine particles
    • Pacific islands
    • Fiji


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