Environmental problems linked to the concentration of atmospheric particulate matter with dimensions less than 10 μm (PM10) in urban settings have stimulated a variety of scientific researches. This study reports a systematic analysis of the magnetic properties of PM10 samples collected by six automatic stations installed for air quality monitoring through the Latium Region (Italy). We measured the low-field magnetic susceptibility of daily air filters collected during the period July 2004 to July 2005. For each station, we derived an empirical linear correlation linking magnetic susceptibility to the concentration of PM10 produced by local sources (i.e., in absence of significant inputs of exogenous dust). An experimental approach is suggested for estimating the percentage of nonmagnetic PM10 transported from natural far-sided sources (i.e., dust from North Africa and marine aerosols). Moreover, we carried out a variety of additional magnetic measurements to investigate the magnetic mineralogy of selected air filters spanning representative periods. The results indicate that the magnetic fraction of PM10 is composed by a mixture of low-coercivity, magnetite-like, ferrimagnetic particles with a wide spectrum of grain sizes, related to a variety of natural and anthropogenic sources. The natural component of PM10 has a characteristic magnetic signature that is indistinguishable from that of eolian dust. The anthropogenic PM10 fraction is mostly originated from circulating vehicles and is a mixture of prevailing fine superparamagnetic particles and subordinate large multidomain grains; the former are more directly related to exhaust, whereas the latter may be associated to abrasion of metallic parts.
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