Characteristics and risk assessment of environmentally persistent free radicals (EPFRs) of PM₂ꓸ₅ in Lahore, Pakistan

Mushtaq AHMAD, Jing CHEN, Qing YU, Muhammad Tariq KHAN, Syed Weqas ALI, Asim NAWAB, Worradorn PHAIRUANG, Sirima PANYAMETHEEKUL

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Environmentally persistent free radicals (EPFRs) are an emerging pollutant and source of oxidative stress. Samples of PM₂ꓸ₅ were collected at the urban sites of Lahore in both winter and summertime of 2019. The chemical composition of PM₂ꓸ₅, EPRF concentration, OH radical generation, and risk assessment of EPFRs in PM₂ꓸ₅ were evaluated. The average concentration of PM₂ꓸ₅ 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 PM₂ꓸ₅ 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 PM₂ꓸ₅ is greater in summertime. The atmospheric EPFRs are used to evaluate the exposure risk. The EPFRs in PM₂ꓸ₅ 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 PM₂ꓸ₅ 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. Copyright © 2023 by the authors.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2384
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


Ahmad, M., Chen, J., Yu, Q., Khan, M. T., Weqas Ali, S., Nawab, A., . . . Panyametheekul, S. (2023). Characteristics and risk assessment of environmentally persistent free radicals (EPFRs) of PM₂ꓸ₅ in Lahore, Pakistan. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(3). Retrieved from


  • EPFRs
  • Carbonaceous species
  • Hydroxyl radicals
  • Risk assessment
  • Oxidative potential
  • PG student publication


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