Characteristics and Risk Assessment of Environmentally Persistent Free Radicals (EPFRs) of PM2.5 in Lahore, Pakistan

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2023 Jan 29;20(3):2384. doi: 10.3390/ijerph20032384.


Environmentally persistent free radicals (EPFRs) are an emerging pollutant and source of oxidative stress. Samples of PM2.5 were collected at the urban sites of Lahore in both winter and summertime of 2019. The chemical composition of PM2.5, EPRF concentration, OH radical generation, and risk assessment of EPFRs in PM2.5 were evaluated. The average concentration of PM2.5 in wintertime and summertime in Lahore is 15 and 4.6 times higher than the national environmental quality standards (NEQS) of Pakistan and WHO. The dominant components of PM2.5 are carbonaceous species. The concentration of EPFRs and reactive oxygen species (ROS), such as OH radicals, is higher in the winter than in the summertime. The secondary inorganic ions do not contribute to the generation of OH radicals, although the contribution of SO42+, NO3-, and NH4+ to the mass concentration of PM2.5 is greater in summertime. The atmospheric EPFRs are used to evaluate the exposure risk. The EPFRs in PM2.5 and cigarette smoke have shown similar toxicity to humans. In winter and summer, the residents of Lahore inhaled the amount of EPFRs equivalent to 4.0 and 0.6 cigarettes per person per day, respectively. Compared to Joaquin County, USA, the residents of Lahore are 1.8 to 14.5 times more exposed to EPFRs in summer and wintertime. The correlation analysis of atmospheric EPFRs (spin/m3) and carbonaceous species of PM2.5 indicates that coal combustion, biomass burning, and vehicle emissions are the possible sources of EPFRs in the winter and summertime. In both winter and summertime, metallic and carbonaceous species correlated well with OH radical generation, suggesting that vehicular emissions, coal combustion, and industrial emissions contributed to the OH radical generation. The study's findings provide valuable information and data for evaluating the potential health effects of EPFRs in South Asia and implementing effective air pollution control strategies.

Keywords: EPFRs; carbonaceous species; hydroxyl radicals; oxidative potential; risk assessment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants* / analysis
  • China
  • Coal / analysis
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Free Radicals
  • Humans
  • Pakistan
  • Particulate Matter* / analysis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Seasons
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis


  • Particulate Matter
  • Air Pollutants
  • Free Radicals
  • Vehicle Emissions
  • Coal

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No.91543110). The first author was grateful to the PhD fellowship granted by China Scholarship Council and Postdoc fellowship by C2F Chulalongkorn University Bangkok, Thailand. The APC was funded by Research Affairs and Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University Bangkok, Thailand.