Nanoparticle emissions from traditional pottery manufacturing
Traditional pottery manufacturing involves firing of the ceramics in kilns, a process that leads to high concentrations of airborne particles that are harmful to human health. In order to assess the associated exposure levels and the involved risks, here, for the first time, we investigate the size, the concentration and the elemental composition of the particles emitted during the different stages of the ceramic firing process. Number size distributions of the emitted particles, having diameters in the range from 10 nm to 20 μm, were measured in a traditional small-sized pottery studio using a Scanning Mobility Particle Sizer (SMPS) and an Optical Particle Counter (OPC). The measurements showed dominance of the nanoparticle mode (i.e., particles smaller than 100 nm) when the kiln reached temperatures above 600 °C. The mean size of the particles ranged from 30 to 70 nm and their peak number concentration was 6.5 × 105 cm−3 during the first stage of the firing process where the ceramics were unpainted and unglazed. During the second stage of the firing process, where the ceramics were painted and glazed, the mean particle size ranged from 15 to 40 nm and their number concentration peaked at 1.2 × 106 cm−3. Elemental analysis of individual particles collected during the two firing stages and studied by Energy-Dispersive X-ray (EDX) spectroscopy showed that the emitted nanoparticles contain significant amounts of lead. These findings provide new information for understanding the health impacts of traditional pottery manufacturing, and underline the need for adopting adequate measures to control nanoparticle emissions at the source.