Toxic metals in particulate matter pose a significant health risk to humans via inhalation and dermal exposure. Additionally, airborne pollution has negative impacts on terrestrial and aquatic quality as a result of atmospheric deposition. Iron and steelmaking industry is considered as a major contributor to airborne metal pollution. Given that China has been the largest steel producer and consumer since 1996, a detailed investigation of airborne metal pollution is required to assess the potential risks to both human health and ecosystem quality near iron and steelmaking areas in China. This study applied an environmental impact assessment approach to evaluate the freshwater ecotoxicity, terrestrial ecotoxicity, marine ecotoxicity and human toxicity caused by metal concentrations in PM1.1, PM1.1-2.1 and PM2.1-9.0 fractions. Results showed that heavy metals Cu and Zn associated with steelmaking activities were largely responsible for aquatic and terrestrial ecotoxicity. This study also found that As and Pb contamination presented the largest fraction of the impacts on human toxicity. Findings presented in this study showed that more stringent control measures are required to improve the environmental performance of the iron and steelmaking industries in China.
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- Human toxicity
- Aquatic ecotoxicity
- Terrestrial ecotoxicity