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Characterizing the range of children's air pollutant exposure during school bus commutes


Real-time and integrated measurements of gaseous and particulate pollutants were conducted inside five conventional diesel school buses, a diesel bus with a particulate trap, and a bus powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) to determine the range of children's exposures during school bus commutes and conditions leading to high exposures. Measurements were made during 24 morning and afternoon commutes on two Los Angeles Unified School District bus routes from South to West Los Angeles, with seven additional runs on a rural/suburban route, and three runs to test the effect of window position. For these commutes, the mean concentrations of diesel vehicle-related pollutants ranged from 0.9 to 19 μg/m3 for black carbon, 23 to 400 ng/m3 for particle-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PB-PAH), and 64 to 220 μg/m3 for NO2. Concentrations of benzene and formaldehyde ranged from 0.1 to 11 μg/m3 and 0.3 to 5 μg/m3, respectively. The highest real-time concentrations of black carbon, PB-PAH and NO2 inside the buses were 52 μg/m3, 2000 ng/m3, and 370 μg/m3, respectively. These pollutants were significantly higher inside conventional diesel buses compared to the CNG bus, although formaldehyde concentrations were higher inside the CNG bus. Mean black carbon, PB-PAH, benzene and formaldehyde concentrations were higher when the windows were closed, compared with partially open, in part, due to intrusion of the bus's own exhaust into the bus cabin, as demonstrated through the use of a tracer gas added to each bus's exhaust. These same pollutants tended to be higher on urban routes compared to the rural/suburban route, and substantially higher inside the bus cabins compared to ambient measurements. Mean concentrations of pollutants with substantial secondary formation, such as PM2.5, showed smaller differences between open and closed window conditions and between bus routes. Type of bus, traffic congestion levels, and encounters with other diesel vehicles contributed to high exposure variability between runs.

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We gratefully acknowledge support for this research from the ARB, Contract No. 00-322, and the SCAQMD and US EPA. The statements and conclusions in this document are those of the authors and not necessarily those of these agencies. We appreciate the cooperation of the Brentwood Science Magnet School and the LAUSD. We wish to acknowledge valuable technical support from Kurt Bumiller and Matt Smith of CE-CERT, UC Riverside. We thank our bus driver, Shonna Pierce, and Kenneth Wong and Kathleen Kozawa from the Department of Environmental Health Sciences for their contributions.

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Correspondence to Arthur M Winer.

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Sabin, L., Behrentz, E., Winer, A. et al. Characterizing the range of children's air pollutant exposure during school bus commutes. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 15, 377–387 (2005).

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  • diesel
  • bus
  • children
  • exposure
  • air pollutant
  • black carbon

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