Large-scale spraying of roads with water contributes to, rather than prevents, air pollution

Fengzhu Tan, Yuming Guo, Wei Zhang, Xingyan Xu, Ming Zhang, Fan Meng, Sicen Liu, Shanshan Li, Lidia Morawska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Spraying roads with water on a large scale in Chinese cities is one of the supplementary precaution or mitigation actions implemented to control severe air pollution events or heavy haze-fog events in which the mechanisms causing them are not yet fully understood. These air pollution events were usually characterized by higher air humidity. Therefore, there may be a link between this action and air pollution. In the present study, the impact of water spraying on the PM2.5 concentration and humidity in air was assessed by measuring chemical composition of the water, undertaking a simulated water spraying experiment, measuring residues and analyzing relevant data. We discovered that spraying large quantities of tap or river water on the roads leads to increased PM2.5 concentration and humidity, and that daily continuous spraying produces a cumulative effect on air pollution. Spraying the same amount of water produces greater increases in humidity and PM2.5 concentration during cool autumn and winter than during hot summer. Our results demonstrate that spraying roads with water increases, rather than decreases, the concentration of PM2.5 and thus is a new source of anthropogenic aerosol and air pollution. The higher vapor content and resultant humidity most likely create unfavorable meteorological conditions for the dispersion of air pollution in autumn and winter with low temperature.

Original languageEnglish
Article number122
Number of pages13
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Aerosols
  • Air pollution
  • Air pollution events
  • Fine particles
  • Relative humidity
  • SNA

Cite this