The University of Arizona
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Radiocarbon Measurements of Particulates in Smog

Rainer Berger, R. M. Johnson, J. R. Holmes


In recent years in California, smog aerosols have been observed in metropolitan and rural areas. We wondered what the relative contribution is from sources such as fossil fuel combustion (eg, cars, factories) and emissions from trees and other plants. Pollution produced by fossil fuel combustion can be distinguished from biological sources using radioactive carbon. Carbon in fossil organic materials is radioactively dead whereas carbon in living plants contains 14C. Smog particles were collected on clean glass or quartz fiber paper and analyzed in a small volume CO2 proportional counter for 14C content. Results are given for sampling locations at UCLA, El Monte, Riverside, and Lake Tahoe showing the relative contributions of fossil and modern carbon sources ranging from 0 to 74% and 26 to 100% respectively.

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