Asphalt-related emissions are a major missing nontraditional source of secondary organic aerosol precursors.
Khare P, Machesky J, Soto R, He M, Presto AA, Gentner DR. Asphalt-related emissions are a major missing nontraditional source of secondary organic aerosol precursors. Science advances 2020;6(36):eabb9785.
Asphalt-based materials are abundant and a major nontraditional source of reactive organic compounds in urban areas, but their emissions are essentially absent from inventories. At typical temperature and solar conditions simulating different life cycle stages (i.e., storage, paving, and use), common road and roofing asphalts produced complex mixtures of organic compounds, including hazardous pollutants. Chemically speciated emission factors using high-resolution mass spectrometry reveal considerable oxygen and reduced sulfur content and the predominance of aromatic (~30%) and intermediate/semivolatile organic compounds (~85%), which together produce high overall secondary organic aerosol (SOA) yields. Emissions rose markedly with moderate solar exposure (e.g., 300% for road asphalt) with greater SOA yields and sustained SOA production. On urban scales, annual estimates of asphalt-related SOA precursor emissions exceed those from motor vehicles and substantially increase existing estimates from noncombustion sources. Yet, their emissions and impacts will be concentrated during the hottest, sunniest periods with greater photochemical activity and SOA production.