Potential influence of inter-continental transport of sulfate aerosols on air quality

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In this study, we compare the potential influence of inter-continental transport of sulfate aerosols on the air quality of (different) continental regions. We use a global chemical transport model, Model of Ozone and Related Tracers, version 2 (MOZART-2), to quantify the source-receptor relationships of inter-continental transport of sulfate aerosols among ten regions in 2000. In order to compare the importance of foreign with domestic emissions and to estimate the effect of future changes in emissions on human exposure, we define an 'influence potential' (IP). The IP quantifies the human exposure that occurs in a receptor region as a result of a unit of SO2 emissions from a source region. We find that due to the non-linear nature of sulfate production, regions with low SO2 emissions usually have large domestic IP, and vice versa. An exception is East Asia (EA), which has both high SO2 emissions and relatively large domestic IP, mostly caused by the spatial coincidence of emissions and population. We find that inter-continental IPs are usually less than domestic IPs by 1-3 orders of magnitude. SO2 emissions from the Middle East (ME) and Europe (EU) have the largest potential to influence populations in surrounding regions. By comparing the IP ratios (IPR) between foreign and domestic SO2 emissions, we find that the IPR values range from 0.000 01 to 0.16 and change with season. Therefore, if reducing human exposure to sulfate aerosols is the objective, all regions should first focus on reducing domestic SO2 emissions. In addition, we find that relatively high IPR values exist among the EU, ME, the former Soviet Union (FSU) and African (AF) regions. Therefore, on the basis of the IP and IPR values, we conclude that a regional agreement among EA countries, and an inter-regional agreement among EU, ME, FSU and (north) AF regions to control sulfur emissions could benefit public health in these regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number045029
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


  • Human exposure
  • Influence potential
  • Inter-continental transport
  • International environmental agreement
  • Public health
  • Source receptor relationship
  • Sulfate aerosol


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