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Air quality in Mecca and surrounding holy places in Saudi Arabia during Hajj: initial survey.

  • Author(s): Simpson, Isobel J
  • Aburizaiza, Omar S
  • Siddique, Azhar
  • Barletta, Barbara
  • Blake, Nicola J
  • Gartner, Aaron
  • Khwaja, Haider
  • Meinardi, Simone
  • Zeb, Jahan
  • Blake, Donald R
  • et al.

Published Web Location Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

The Arabian Peninsula experiences severe air pollution, the extent and sources of which are poorly documented. Each year in Saudi Arabia this situation is intensified during Hajj, the Holy Pilgrimage of Islam that draws millions of pilgrims to Mecca. An initial study of air quality in Mecca and surrounding holy sites during the 2012 Hajj (October 24-27) revealed strongly elevated levels of the combustion tracer carbon monoxide (CO, up to 57 ppmv) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) along the pilgrimage route-especially in the tunnels of Mecca-that are a concern for human health. The most abundant VOC was the gasoline evaporation tracer i-pentane, which exceeded 1200 ppbv in the tunnels. Even though VOC concentrations were generally lower during a follow-up non-Hajj sampling period (April 2013), many were still comparable to other large cities suffering from poor air quality. Major VOC sources during the 2012 Hajj study included vehicular exhaust, gasoline evaporation, liquefied petroleum gas, and air conditioners. Of the measured compounds, reactive alkenes and CO showed the strongest potential to form ground-level ozone. Because the number of pilgrims is expected to increase in the future, we present emission reduction strategies to target both combustive and evaporative fossil fuel sources.

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