The objective of this study was to determine if there is an exposure gradient in particulate matter concentrations for people living near interstate highways, and to determine how far from the highway the gradient extends. Air samples were collected in a residential area of Greater Cincinnati in the vicinity of two major highways. The measurements were conducted at different distances from the highways by using ultrafine particle counters (measurement range: 0.02-1 μm), optical particle counters (0.3-20 μm), and PM2.5 Harvard Impactors (0.02-2.5 μm). The collected PM2.5 samples were analyzed for mass concentration, for elemental and organic carbon, and for elemental concentrations. The results show that the aerosol concentration gradient was most clearly seen in the particle number concentration measured by the ultrafine particle counters. The concentration of ultrafine particles decreased to half between the sampling points located at 50 m and 150 m downwind from the highway. Additionally, elemental analysis revealed a gradient in sulfur concentrations up to 400 m from the highway in a residential area that does not have major nearby industrial sources. This gradient was qualitatively attributed to the sulfate particle emissions from diesel engine exhausts, and was supported by the concentration data on several key elements indicative of traffic sources (road dust and diesel exhaust). As different particulate components gave different profiles of the diesel exposure gradient, these results indicate that no single element or component of diesel exhaust can be used as a surrogate for diesel exposure, but more comprehensive signature analysis is needed. This characterization is crucial especially when the exposure data are to be used in epidemiological studies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law