Trace metals in aerosols were observed at an urban site (Kumamoto, Kyushu, Japan) and a rural site (Cape Hedo, Okinawa, Japan) to investigate the relative contributions of transboundary air pollutants from mainland Asia and local air pollutants in western Japan. We used a cascade impactor to collect aerosols in five size classes. We apportioned the sources of the air masses on the basis of elemental components. Transboundary and local air pollutants were distinguished by use of the Pb/Cu and V/As ratios in selected size fractions of aerosols. The contribution of Pb (primarily from coal combustion in China) to total anthropogenic elements was greatest in spring, autumn, and winter in the 0.5–1 µm size fraction at both collection sites. The atmospheric environment at both sites was affected by this transboundary air pollutant. The contribution of Cu (primarily from local vehicle traffic) to total anthropogenic elements was greatest in all seasons in the 2.5–10 µm fraction at Kumamoto. Local air pollutants such as road dust, automobile brake abrasion, and waste incineration affected ambient air quality in Kumamoto. Because these pollutants resided mainly in the coarse aerosol fraction (> 2.5 µm), most of them were not transported to Cape Hedo in air bodies that we were able to trace to Kumamoto by backward projection. Based on our data the ambient air quality at Cape Hedo was little affected by local air pollutants emitted in the Kumamoto area.
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