Non-carcinogenic and Carcinogenic Risk Assessment of Trace Elements of PM2.5 During Winter and Pre-monsoon Seasons in Delhi: A Case Study

  • Ananya Das
  • Gaurav Singh
  • Gazala HabibEmail author
  • Arun Kumar
Original Paper


This study focuses on exposures of metal constituents of particulate matter (PM) in the ambient air sample collected at Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT Delhi), India, which might lead to occurrence of non-cancerous events and cancer events. A step-wise construction of risk assessment framework for estimating risks due to exposures of PM2.5 presented. Samples from winter and pre-monsoon seasons of Delhi region (28.5450°N, 77.1926°E) (duration 1: December 2013–February 2014; duration 2: March 2014–May 14) were collected. More than 12 samples were collected using PM2.5 sampler on an 8-h basis and analysed gravimetrically for determining mass content and chemically for determining metal content of PM2.5. Twenty-eight metals in samples were detected using Energy Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence (ED-XRF). Using these values, health risks of hypotheticals exposures of PM2.5 in ambient air samples were estimated either in terms of hazard quotient (i.e. ratio of daily inhaled dose to daily acceptable dose) for exposures of non-carcinogenic metals or lifetime excess risk of cancer for exposures of carcinogenic metals. Dose–response information of different metals was taken from the U.S. EPA IRIS database. Among metals, S content was highest followed by Cl, Si, K, Ca and Fe, Zn and Pb. High S can be attributed to vehicular emission or particles generated from abrasion of tyres of vehicles. High contents of Si, Ca, Fe in PM samples may be contributed from resuspension road dust, while source of K may be local biomass burning for space heating in winter. Zn comes from vehicle and coal burning probably used by local residents for space heating. Chlorine used in lubricants and diesel fuel could be a source of high Cl content in samples collected in the present work. Small traces of Pb in samples might be coming from brake and tyre wear or resuspension of road dust contaminated with lead used earlier in diesel and/or petrol to improve combustion. Estimates of potential risk due to hypothetical exposure of adults and children to four carcinogenic metals of PM2.5 were found to be more than 1/10,000,000, indicating chance of cancer risks. Among metals, exposures to PM-associated Cd resulted in consistent cancerous risk in both seasons, whereas exposures to PM-associated Cr resulted in HQ value > 1 indicating chance of non-carcinogenic risks.


Ambient PM (PM2.5, PM10) sampling Inhalation risks Carcinogenic metals Cancer risk 



The authors would like to thank Indian Institute of Technology (Delhi, India) for supporting this study through financial grant and Dr. Ramya Sunder Raman from IISER Bhopal (India) for providing access to the ED-XRF analysis facility.

Supplementary material

12403_2018_285_MOESM1_ESM.docx (23 kb)
Electronic supplementary material 1 (DOCX 23 kb)


  1. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease registry (1999) Toxicological profile for lead (update). U.S. Department of HEALTH and Human Services, AtlantaGoogle Scholar
  2. Aggarwal P, Jain S (2015) Impact of air pollutants from surface transport sources on human health: a modeling and epidemiological approach. Environ Int 83:146–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Basha S, Jhala J, Thorat R, Goel S, Trivedi R, Shah K, Menon G, Gaur P, Kalpana HM, Jha V (2010) Assessment of heavy metal content in suspended particulate matter of coastal industrial town, Mithapur, Gujarat, India. Atmos Res 97:257–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brauer M, Hoek G, van Vliet P, Meliefste K, Fischer P, Gehring U, Heinrich J, Cyrys J, Bellander T, Lewne M, Brunekreef B (2016) Estimating long-term average particulate air pollution concentrations: application of traffic indicators and geographic information systems. Epidemiology 14(2):228–239.
  5. Choudhury H, Mudipalli A (2008) Potential considerations and concerns in the risk characterization for the interaction profiles of metals. Indian J Med Res 128:462–483Google Scholar
  6. Contini D, Cesari D, Donateo A, Chirizzi D, Bellosi F (2016) Characterization of PM10 and PM2.5 and their metals content in different typologies of sites in South-Eastern Italy. Atmosphere 5(2):435–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Curtis L, Rea W, Willis PS, Fenyves E, Yaqin P (2006) Adverse health effects of outdoor air pollutants. Environ Int 32:815–830CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Das M, Maiti SK, Mukhopadhyay U (2006) Distribution of PM2.5 and PM10-2.5 in PM10 fraction in ambient air due to vehicular pollution in Kolkata megacity. Environ Monit Assess 122:111–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Das A, Kumar A, Habib G, Perumal V (2016) Identifying knowledge gaps in incorporating toxicity of particulate matter constituents for developing regulatory limits on particulate matter. Int J Chem Mol Nucl Mater Metall Eng 10(7):914–918Google Scholar
  10. Delfino RJ, Gong H, Linn WS, Pellizzari ED, Hu Y (2002) Asthma symptoms in Hispanic children and daily ambient exposures to toxic and criteria air pollutants. Environ Health Perspect 111(4):647–656CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Du Y, Gao B, Zhou H, Ju X, Hao H, Yin S (2013) Health risk assessment of street dust in Luanda, Angola: a tropical urban environment. Atmos Environ 39(25):4501–4512Google Scholar
  12. Greene AN, Morris RV (2006) Assessment of public health risks associated with atmospheric exposure to PM2.5 in Washington, DC, USA. Int J Environ Res Public Health 3(1):86–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Han L, Gao B, Wei X et al (2016) Spatial distribution, health risk assessment, and isotopic composition of lead contamination of street dusts in different functional areas of Beijing, China. Environ Sci Pollut Res 23(4):3247–3255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hu X, Zhang Y, Ding Z, Wang T, Lian H, Sun Y, Wu J (2012) Bioaccessibility and health risk of arsenic and heavy metals (Cd Co, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb, Zn and Mn) in TSP and PM2.5 in Nanjing, China. Atmos Environ 57:146–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. IARC (2012) A review of human carcinogens, part C: arsenic, metals, fibres, and dusts, vol 100. Monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans.
  16. IARC (2013) Outdoor air pollution a leading environment cause of cancer deaths. IARC, LyonGoogle Scholar
  17. IRIS (Integrated Risk Assessment System) (1995) United States Environmental Protection Agency.
  18. Izhar S, Goel A, Chakraborty A, Gupta T (2016) Annual trends in occurrence of submicron particles in ambient air and health risk posed by particle bound metals. Chemosphere 46:582–590CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jain S, Khare M (2008) Urban air quality in mega cities: a case study of Delhi City using vulnerability analysis. Environ Monit Assess 136:257–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jain N, Bhatia A, Pathak H (2014) Emission of air pollutants from crop residue burning in India. Aerosol Air Qual Res 14:422–430CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jaiprakash GH, Kumar S (2016) Evaluation of portable dilution system for aerosol measurement from stationary and mobile combustion sources. Aerosol Sci Technol 50(7):717–731CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Khanna I, Khare M, Gargava P (2015) Health risks associated with heavy metals in fine particulate matter: a case study in Delhi city, India. J Geosci Environ Prot 3(2):72–77Google Scholar
  23. Kong S, Lu B, Ji Y, Zhao X, Bai Z, Xu Y, Liu Y, Jiang H (2012) Risk assessment of heavy metals in road and soil dusts within PM 2.5, PM 10 and PM 100 fractions in Dongying city, Shandong Province, China. J Environ Monit 14:791–803CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kumar P, Gurjar BR, Nagpure AS, Harrison Roy M (2011) Preliminary estimates of nanoparticle number emissions from road vehicles in megacity Delhi and associated health impacts. Environ Sci Technol 45:5514–5521CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kumar P, Morawska L, Birmili W, Paasonen P, Hu M, Kulmala M, Harrison MR, Norford L, Britter R (2014) Ultrafine particles in cities. Environ Int 66:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Li P-H, Kong S-F, Geng C-M, Han B, Lu B, Sun R-F, Zhao R-J, Bai Z-P (2013) Assessing the Hazardous risks of vehicle inspection workers exposure to particulate heavy metals in their workplaces. Aerosol Air Qual Res 13:255–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Li K, Tao L, Wang L (2016) Risk assessment of atmospheric heavy metals exposure in Baotou, a typical industrial city in northern China. Environ Geochem Health 38:843–853CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Liu X, Zhai Y, Zhu Y, Liu Y, Chen H, Li P, Zeng G (2015) Mass concentration and health assessment of heavy metals in size –segregated airborne particulate matter in Changsha. Sci Tot Environ 517:215–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Massey DD, Kulshreshtha A, Taneja A (2013) Particulate matter concentrations and their related metal toxicity in rural residential environment of semi-arid region of India. Atmos Environ 67:278–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation, GOI (2016) Accessed 28 May 18
  31. Parsai T, Kumar A (2016) Human risk assessment: toxicity issues and challenges associated with mixture of chemicals released during plastic reuse and recycling published in the 1st international electronic conference on water sciencesGoogle Scholar
  32. Raman RS, Kumar S (2016) First measurements of ambient aerosol over an ecologically sensitive zone in Central India: relationships between PM2.5 mass, its optical properties, and meteorology. Sci Tot Environ 550:706–716CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Reddy SM, Venkataraman C (2001) Inventory of aerosol and sulphur dioxide emissions from India: fossil fuel combustion. Atmos Environ 36:677–697CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Santos G, Fernández-Olma I (2016) A proposed methodology for the assessment of arsenic, nickel, cadmium and lead levels in ambient air. Sci Tot Environ 554–555:155–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sen S, Bizimis M, Tripathi SN, Paul D (2016) Lead isotopic fingerprinting of aerosols to characterize the sources of atmospheric lead in an industrial city of India. Atmos Environ 129:27–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sharma M, Maloo S (2005) Assessment of ambient air PM10 and PM2.5 and characterization of PM10 in the city of Kanpur, India. Atmos Environ 39(33):6015–6026CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sharma M, Kumar NV, Katiyar SK, Sharma R, Shukla PB, Sengupta B (2010) Effects of particulate air pollution on the respiratory health of subjects who live in three areas in Kanpur, India. Arch Environ Health 59(7):348–358CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Singh D, Sharma S, Habib G, Gupta T (2015) Speciation of atmospheric polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) present during fog time collected submicron particles. Environ Sci Pollut Res 22–16:12458–12468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Srivastava A, Joseph A, Patil S, More A, Dixit R, Prakash M (2004) Air toxics in ambient air of Delhi. Atmos Environ 39:59–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Srivastava A, Jain V, Srivastava A (2008) SEM-EDX analysis of various sizes aerosols in Delhi India. Environ Monit Assess 150:405–416CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sternbeck J, Sjo AKD, Andreasson K (2002) Metal emissions from road traffic and the influence of resuspension results from two tunnel studies. Atmos Environ 36:4735–4744CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Stone EAS, James JP, Bidya BB, Dangol PM, Habib G, Venkataraman C, Ramanathan V (2010) Characterization of emissions from South Asian biofuels and application to source apportionment of carbonaceous aerosol in the Himalayas. J Geophys Res 115:D06301Google Scholar
  43. Sun H, Shamy H, Klutz T, Muoz AB, Zhong M, Laulicht F, Alghamdi MA, Khoder MI, Chen LC, Costa M (2012) Gene expression profiling and pathway analysis of human bronchial epithelial cells exposed to airborne particulate matter collected from Saudi Arabia. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 265(2):147–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. U.S. EPA (2004a) Regional screening level.
  45. U.S. EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) (2004b) Region 9, preliminary remediation goals, air–water calculationsGoogle Scholar
  46. U.S. EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) (2004c) Risk Assessment Guidance for Superfund volume 1: human health evaluation manual (Part E, Supplemental Guidance for Dermal Risk Assessment). Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  47. U.S. EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) (2007).Guidance for evaluating the Oral bioavailability of Metals in Soils for Use in Human Health Risk AssessmentGoogle Scholar
  48. U.S. EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) (2009a) Risk Assessment Guidance for Superfund vol I: human health evaluation manual (Part F, Supplemental Guidance for Inhalation Risk Assessment). Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  49. U.S. EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) (2009b) Risk Assessment Guidance for Superfund volume 1: human health evaluation manual (Part F, Supplemental Guidance for Dermal Risk Assessment). Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  50. U.S. EPA (2011) Risk Assessment Guidance for Superfund. In Part A, Human health evaluation manual; Part E, Supplemental Guidance for Dermal Risk Assessment; Part F, Supplemental Guidance for Inhalation Risk AssessmentGoogle Scholar
  51. Wang X, Tsutomo S, Baothan X (2006) Size, distribution and anthropogenic source apportionment of airborne trace element in Kanazawa, Japan. Chemosphere 65:2440–2448CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Wei X, Gao B, Wang P et al (2015) Pollution characteristics and health risk assessment of heavy metals in street dusts from different functional areas in Beijing, China. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf 112:186–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. WHO Global Urban Air Pollution Database (2016) Accessed 29 May 2018
  54. Wu M, Sheng G (2011) Physicochemical characterization and cytotoxicity of ambient coarse, fine, and ultrafine particulate matters in Shanghai atmosphere. Atmos Environ 45(2011):736–744Google Scholar
  55. Xu X, Lu X, Han X, Zhao N (2015) Ecological and health risk assessment of metal in resuspended particles of urban street dust from an industrial city in China. Curr Sci 108(1):72–78Google Scholar
  56. Xu H, Ho SSH, Cao J, Guinot B, Kan H, Shen Z, Ho KF, Liu S, Zhao Z, Li J, Zhang N, Zhu C, Zhang Q, Huang R (2017) A 10-year observation of PM2.5-bound nickel in Xi’an, China: effects of source control on its trend and associated health risk. Sci Rep 7(4):1132Google Scholar
  57. Zheng N, Liu J, Wang Q, Liang Z (2010) Health risk assessment of heavy metals exposure to street dust in the zinc smelting district, Northeast of China. Sci Tot Environ 408(4):726–733CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ananya Das
    • 1
  • Gaurav Singh
    • 1
  • Gazala Habib
    • 1
    Email author
  • Arun Kumar
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Civil EngineeringIndian Institute of Technology DelhiNew DelhiIndia

Personalised recommendations