Why measure Black Carbon?

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Black carbon in the atmosphere is recognised to play a role in anthropogenic climate change and contribute to pollution related health risks therefore monitoring and source apportionment of ambient black carbon is receiving increasing interest.

The role of Black Carbon in climate change was the subject of a comprehensive assessment conducted by a collaboration of several prominant climate research organisation (Bond et al 2013). Black Carbon influences on climate change included in the assessment were direct absorbtion of sunlight reducing reflectance by the surface of the earth, modification of the processes in ice and liquid clouds changing precipitation, atmospheric temperature structure and cloud distribution and by deposition in snow and ice changing the surface reflectance properties.     

WHO published a review of the health effects of Black Carbon in 2001, Short term studies reviewed indicated that Black Carbon, rather than particulate mass (PM10 or PM2.5), is a better indicator of substances posing a health risk from combustion sources (especially traffic). The authors cite a lack of studies to draw strong conclusions on qualitative or quantitave impacts of Black Carbon versus particulate mass or the mechanism of action they postulated based on the evidence reviewed that Black Carbon likely served as a vector for other harmful species to enter the body via the lungs.