Background: Environmental magnetism, focusing on ferrimagnetic iron oxides, provides useful additional information on pollution of different environments. Magnetic methods have been applied to studies of atmospheric dust, namely PM10 (particulate matter smaller than 10 micrometers) in, e.g., industrial or urban areas. Until now, positive correlation was reported between concentration of iron oxides (expressed in terms of either magnetic susceptibility, saturation remanent or saturation induced magnetization) and concentration of PM10 or smaller. Purpose of this study was to verify the relationship between iron oxides and PM at monitoring site close to source of emissions rich in iron oxides during period of smoggy conditions.
Results: We examined 24-hours PM10 and PM1 samples, collected during 10 days of smoggy winter period at a site close to steel plant, which represents a significant source of atmospheric emissions in industrial region of Northern Moravia (Czech Republic), known for generally high degree of air pollution. Magnetic hysteresis loops were measured in order to obtain parameters reflecting the concentration and grain-size distribution of iron oxides. Our data show unexpected negative correlation between saturation magnetization (concentration of ferrimagnetic iron oxides) and both PM1 and PM10 concentrations, to the best of our knowledge the trend not being reported yet.
Conclusions: Our finding may seemingly disqualify magnetic methods as useful proxy in air pollution studies. However, we suggest that this is an exceptional case, specific to this region and monitoring site, as well as to synoptic conditions during the smoggy period. Although the significant dust emissions are presumably rich in iron oxides, the overall air quality at the monitoring site is determined by the general environment, controlled by many other sources of different character in the region, and by the specific climatic conditions. Thus, the nearby steel plant, presumably emitting dust rich in ferrimagnetic iron oxides, dominates the deposited dust at the nearby monitoring site only during very few days of suitable weather (namely wind speed and direction).