Lignin-derived phenols in Houston aerosols: implications for natural background sources.
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Solvent-extractable monomeric methoxyphenols in aerosol samples conventionally have been used to indicate the influence of biomass combustion. In addition, the presence of lignin oxidation products (LOP), derived from the CuO oxidation of vascular plant organic matter, can help trace the source and inputs of primary biological particles in aerosols. Ambient aerosols (coarse and fine) collected in Houston during summer 2010 were analyzed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to characterize monomeric and polymeric sources of LOPs. This is the first time polymeric forms of the LOPs have been characterized in ambient aerosols. The absence or small concentrations of solvent-extractable monomeric LOPs and levoglucosan isomers point to the limited influence of biomass burning during the sampling period. The trace levels of anhydrosugar concentrations most likely result from long-range transport. This observation is supported by the absence of co-occurring lignin monomers that undergo photochemical degradation during transport. The larger concentration (142 ng m(-3)) of lignin polymers in coarse aerosols shows the relative importance of primary biological aerosol particles, even in the urban atmosphere. The LOP parameters suggest a predominant influence from woody tissue of angiosperms, with minor influence from soft tissues, gymnosperms, and soil organic matter.