The cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of PM2.5 during a snowfall event in different functional areas of a megacity

Weijie Huang, Yuting Pang, Xiao San Luo, Qi Chen, Lichun Wu, Mingwei Tang, Youwei Hong, Jinsheng Chen, Ling Jin

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Atmospheric fine particulate matter (PM2.5) can harm human health, but the chemical composition and toxicity of PM2.5 pollution might vary with weather conditions. In order to investigate the impacts of snowfall weather on aerosol characteristics and toxicity by changing particle sources and components, the daily PM2.5 samples were collected before, during, and after a snowfall event in urban, industrial, suburban, and rural areas of Nanjing city in eastern China, for both chemical composition analysis and cytotoxicity tests. After 24 h exposure to these PM2.5, the cell activity, oxidative stress indicators and inflammatory factor expression levels of human lung epithelial cells A549 were measured by ELISA, and DNA damage was determined by comet assay. Although the concentrations of PM2.5 in the air were reduced during snowfall, they posed stronger cytotoxicity, genetic toxicity and inflammatory responses to A549 cells. Related to the elevated mass concentrations of some components accumulated in PM2.5 during snowfall, As, Co, Cr, Sr, V, water-soluble Na+ and Ca2+ showed positive correlations with toxicity indicators. Therefore, snowfall will clean air by deposition, but also make the PM2.5 components remaining in air mostly anthropogenic by covering ground soil/dust, thus increase the particle's mass-based cytotoxicity and their health risks still cannot be ignored, such as the heavy metals and water-soluble ions from automobile exhaust and coal combustion.

Original languageEnglish
Article number140267
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Atmospheric fine particles
  • Cell toxicity
  • Chemical composition
  • Health risks
  • Pollution sources
  • Weather events

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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