Influence of COVID-19 lockdown on the variation of organic aerosols: Insight into its molecular composition and oxidative potential

Wei Wang, Yanhao Zhang, Guodong Cao, Yuanyuan Song, Jing Zhang, Ruijin Li, Lifang Zhao, Chuan Dong, Zongwei Cai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


To prevent the transmission of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), China adopted nationwide lockdown measures on January 25, 2020, leading to an evident diminution in the observed air pollutants. To investigate the influence of the lockdown on atmospheric chemistry, the specific molecular composition, oxidative potential of organic aerosols (OAs) in PM2.5 were studied using a high-resolution orbitrap mass spectrometry at a typical coal-combustion city, Linfen, in the North China Plain (NCP). The major air pollutants including PM2.5, PM10, SO2, NO2, and CO were observed to be diminished by 28.6–45.4%, while O3 was augmented by 52.5% during the lockdown compared to those before the lockdown. A significant decrease of oxygen-containing (CHO) compounds (24.7%) associated with anthropogenic acids was observed during the lockdown, implying a reduction in fossil fuel combustion. The coal-burning related sulfur-containing organosulfates (CHOS-) and nitrooxy-sulfates (CHONS-) have also shown attenuated in both their relative abundances and anthropogenic/biogenic ratios. Amine/amide-like CHON + components have decreased by 27.6%, while nitro/nitrooxy-containing CHON- compounds have only decreased by 7.1%. Multi-source nitrogen-containing (CHN) compounds have shown a moderate elimination of 24.0%, while the identified high-condensed azaarenes have fallen from 17.7% to 14.7%, implying a potential reduction in the health risk of OAs during quarantine. The measurement of OAs’ oxidative potential through dithiothreitol (DTT) assay has confirmed that as it had dropped from 0.88 nmol min−1 m−3 to 0.80 nmol min−1 m−3. High correlations were observed between the abundance of OA subgroups with the concentration of PM2.5 after the execution of the lockdown, suggesting a potential elevation in the contribution of organic components to the total PM2.5 level. Our study provides insightful compositional and health-related information in the variation of OAs during the lockdown period and attests to the validity of joint-control strategy in controlling the level and health risks of numerous atmospheric pollutants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112597
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Covid-19 epidemic
  • Molecular composition
  • Orbitrap MS
  • Organic aerosols
  • Oxidative potential


Dive into the research topics of 'Influence of COVID-19 lockdown on the variation of organic aerosols: Insight into its molecular composition and oxidative potential'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this