Significant but Spatiotemporal-Heterogeneous Health Risks Caused by Airborne Exposure to Multiple Toxic Trace Elements in China.
Airborne trace elements (TEs) pose a notable threat to human health due to their toxicity and carcinogenicity, whereas their exposures and associated health risks in China remain unclear. Here, we present the first nationwide assessment of spatiotemporal exposure to 11 TEs in China by coupling a bottom-up emission inventory with a modified CMAQ model capable of TE simulation. Associated health risks of 11 TEs are then evaluated using a set of risk assessment models. Our results show that the CMAQ model could reasonably reproduce the spatiotemporal variations of 11 TEs in China compared to observations. We find significant but spatiotemporal-heterogeneous cancer risks associated with high-level exposure of TEs in China. Gridded cell concentrations of hexavalent chromium, arsenic, and nickel in eastern and central China usually exceed China's air quality standard limits, resulting in significant cancer risks that affected over 85% of the entire population in China in 2015. National annual mean population-weighted concentrations of 11 TEs decrease by 9.8-35.6% from 2012 to 2015, largely attributed to emission reduction from coal combustion. Our study provides critical insights for policymakers to implement stricter measures to alleviate health burdens and benefit relevant epidemiological research on airborne TEs.