Increased oxidative burden associated with traffic component of ambient particulate matter at roadside and urban background schools sites in London

PLoS One. 2011;6(7):e21961. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0021961. Epub 2011 Jul 27.


As the incidence of respiratory and allergic symptoms has been reported to be increased in children attending schools in close proximity to busy roads, it was hypothesised that PM from roadside schools would display enhanced oxidative potential (OP). Two consecutive one-week air quality monitoring campaigns were conducted at seven school sampling sites, reflecting roadside and urban background in London. Chemical characteristics of size fractionated particulate matter (PM) samples were related to the capacity to drive biological oxidation reactions in a synthetic respiratory tract lining fluid. Contrary to hypothesised contrasts in particulate OP between school site types, no robust size-fractionated differences in OP were identified due high temporal variability in concentrations of PM components over the one-week sampling campaigns. For OP assessed both by ascorbate (OP(AA) m(-3)) and glutathione (OP(GSH) m(-3)) depletion, the highest OP per cubic metre of air was in the largest size fraction, PM(1.9-10.2). However, when expressed per unit mass of particles OP(AA) µg(-1) showed no significant dependence upon particle size, while OP(GSH) µg(-1) had a tendency to increase with increasing particle size, paralleling increased concentrations of Fe, Ba and Cu. The two OP metrics were not significantly correlated with one another, suggesting that the glutathione and ascorbate depletion assays respond to different components of the particles. Ascorbate depletion per unit mass did not show the same dependence as for GSH and it is possible that other trace metals (Zn, Ni, V) or organic components which are enriched in the finer particle fractions, or the greater surface area of smaller particles, counter-balance the redox activity of Fe, Ba and Cu in the coarse particles. Further work with longer-term sampling and a larger suite of analytes is advised in order to better elucidate the determinants of oxidative potential, and to fuller explore the contrasts between site types.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ascorbic Acid / chemistry
  • Chemical Fractionation
  • Cities*
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Geography
  • Glutathione / chemistry
  • Linear Models
  • London
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxides / analysis
  • Particle Size
  • Particulate Matter / analysis*
  • Schools*
  • Solubility
  • Temperature
  • Trace Elements / analysis
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis*


  • Oxides
  • Particulate Matter
  • Trace Elements
  • Vehicle Emissions
  • Glutathione
  • Ascorbic Acid