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Disentangling vehicular emission impact on urban air pollution using ethanol as a tracer

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  • Joel Brito
  • Samara Carbone
  • Djacinto A Monteiro Dos Santos
  • Pamela Dominutti
  • Nilmara de Oliveira Alves
  • Luciana V Rizzo
  • Paulo Artaxo


Publication details

JournalScientific Reports
DateAccepted/In press - 16 Jul 2018
DatePublished (current) - 16 Jul 2018
Issue number1
Number of pages10
Original languageEnglish


The Sao Paulo Metropolitan Area is a unique case worldwide due to the extensive use of biofuel, particularly ethanol, by its large fleet of nearly 8 million cars. Based on source apportionment analysis of Organic Aerosols in downtown Sao Paulo, and using ethanol as tracer of passenger vehicles, we have identified primary emissions from light-duty-vehicles (LDV) and heavy-duty-vehicles (HDV), as well as secondary process component. Each of those factors mirror a relevant primary source or secondary process in this densely occupied area. Using those factors as predictors in a multiple linear regression analysis of a wide range of pollutants, we have quantified the role of primary LDV or HDV emissions, as well as atmospheric secondary processes, on air quality degradation. Results show a significant contribution of HDV emissions, despite contributing only about 5% of vehicles number in the region. The latter is responsible, for example, of 40% and 47% of benzene and black carbon atmospheric concentration, respectively. This work describes an innovative use of biofuel as a tracer of passenger vehicle emissions, allowing to better understand the role of vehicular sources on air quality degradation in one of most populated megacities worldwide.

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© The Author(s) 2018

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