Comprehensive volatile organic compound measurements and their implications for ground-level ozone formation in the two main urban areas of Vietnam

To Thi Hien, Duong Huu Huy, Pamela A. Dominutti, Nguyen Doan Thien Chi, James R. Hopkins, Marvin Shaw, Grant Forster, Graham Mills, Hoang Anh Le, David Oram

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Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and oxygenated VOCs (OVOCs) were measured in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and Hanoi, the two largest and most populous cities in Vietnam. The purpose of this study is to better understand the VOC atmospheric composition and their role in ground-level ozone formation. Online measurements of a wide range of VOCs and other pollutants were conducted using numerous instruments during different seasons (dry and rainy) in HCMC and Hanoi (spring). Our results show that the mean mixing ratio of total measured VOCs in Hanoi was 80.8 ± 40.7 ppb (mean ± standard deviation), and was similar to that observed during the rainy season (75.2 ± 44.8 ppb) in HCMC. During the dry season campaign in HCMC, which was coincident with the Hanoi campaign, total VOC was around 50% lower (40.7 ± 19.5 ppb), largely a result of increased planetary boundary layer (PBL) height and the direction of the prevailing wind. VOC profiles in both cities were dominated by alkanes (31–35%) and OVOCs (27–33%) and the proportion of alkenes (13–17%) and aromatics (12–19%) were comparable. Similarities in diurnal variation for most VOC species (except for isoprene) are seen in both cities with two clear peaks during the morning (7:00–8:00 a.m.) and evening (18:00 p.m.) rush hours, as observed for vehicular-combustion tracers (acetylene and CO). Comparisons of the ambient ratios of paired VOCs, namely i/n-pentane, and toluene/benzene, with those reported in motorcycle exhaust, roadside and gasoline samples indicate that motorcycle-related emission is likely a major contributor to VOC pollution. According to the propylene-equivalent concentration (PE conc.) and maximum incremental reactivity (MIR) methods, alkenes and aromatics were determined to be the main contributors to reactivity and ozone potential formation. Furthermore, the initial mixing ratio of VOC species was estimated based on the photochemical age method. The consumed VOCs (initial VOCs minus measured VOCs) has a similar variation trend to ground-level ozone, and a good correlation is observed in HCMC. In contrast, this result was not seen in Hanoi despite relatively high levels of PE conc. and MIR.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118872
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Early online date27 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2022


  • Ozone formation
  • Photochemical reactivity
  • Southeast Asia
  • Urban air pollution
  • VOCs

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