Trends in the elemental composition of fine particulate matter in Santiago, Chile, from 1998 to 2003

J Air Waste Manag Assoc. 2007 Jul;57(7):845-55. doi: 10.3155/1047-3289.57.7.845.


Santiago, Chile, is one of the most polluted cities in South America. As a response, over the past 15 yr, numerous pollution reduction programs have been implemented by the environmental authority, Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente. This paper assesses the effectiveness of these interventions by examining the trends of fine particulate matter (PM(2.5)) and its associated elements. Daily fine particle filter samples were collected in Santiago at a downtown location from April 1998 through March 2003. Additionally, meteorological variables were measured continuously. Annual average concentrations of PM(2.5) decreased only marginally, from 41.8 microg/m3 for the 1998-1999 period to 35.4 microg/m3 for the 2002-2003 period. PM(2.5) concentrations exceeded the annual U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standard of 15 microg/m3. Also, approximately 20% of the daily samples exceeded the old standard of 65 microg/m3, whereas approximately half of the samples exceeded the new standard of 35 microg/m3 (effective in 2006). Mean PM(2.5) levels measured during the cold season (April through September) were three times higher than those measured in the warm season (October through March). Particulate mass and elemental concentration trends were investigated using regression models, controlling for year, month, weekday, wind speed, temperature, and relative humidity. The results showed significant decreases for Pb, Br, and S concentrations and minor but still significant decreases for Ni, Al, Si, Ca, and Fe. The larger decreases were associated with specific remediation policies implemented, including the removal of lead from gasoline, the reduction of sulfur levels in diesel fuel, and the introduction of natural gas. These results suggest that the pollution reduction programs, especially the ones related to transport, have been effective in reducing various important components of PM(2.5). However, particle mass and other associated element levels remain high, and it is thus imperative to continue the efforts to improve air quality, particularly focusing on industrial sources.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution / analysis*
  • Chile
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Particle Size
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Particulate Matter / chemistry*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Seasons


  • Particulate Matter