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Determinants of indoor carbonaceous aerosols in homes in the Northeast United States



Little is known about sources of residential exposure to carbonaceous aerosols, which include black carbon (BC), the elemental carbon core of combustion particles, and organic compounds from biomass combustion (delta carbon).


Assess the impact of residential characteristics on indoor BC and delta carbon when known sources of combustion (e.g., smoking) are minimized.


Between November 2012-December 2014, 125 subjects (129 homes) in Northeast USA were recruited and completed a residential characteristics questionnaire. Every 3 months, participants received an automated sampler to measure fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in their home during a weeklong period (N = 371 indoor air samples) and were also questioned about indoor exposures. The samples were analyzed using a transmissometer at 880 nm (reflecting BC) and at 370 nm. The difference between the two wavelengths estimates delta carbon. Outdoor BC and delta carbon were measured using a central site aethalometer.


Geometric mean indoor concentrations of BC and delta carbon (0.65 µg/m³ and 0.19 µg/m³, respectively), were greater than central site concentrations (0.53 µg/m³ and 0.02 µg/m³, respectively). Multivariable analysis showed that greater indoor concentrations of BC were associated with infrequent candle use, multi-family homes, winter season, lack of air conditioning, and central site BC. For delta carbon, greater indoor concentrations were associated with apartments, spring season, and central site concentrations.


In addition to outdoor central site concentrations, factors related to the type of housing, season, and home exposures are associated with indoor exposure to carbonaceous aerosols. Recognition of these characteristics should enable greater understanding of indoor exposures and their sources.

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Fig. 1: Comparison of indoor (home) and corresponding central site black carbon concentration.


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The authors would like to thank the study participants for their dedicated participation. Supported by the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH Grants R01 ES019853, R21 ES029637, and by resources and the use of facilities at the VA Boston Healthcare System. The contents do not represent the views of the US Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States Government. This publication was made possible by USEPA grant RD-83479801 and RD-83587201. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the grantee and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USEPA. Further, USEPA does not endorse the purchase of any commercial products or services mentioned in the publication. This work was also supported by the National Institutes of Health Grant: 5 T03 OH 8607.

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Authors and Affiliations



JRD contributed to data acquisition, analysis and interpretation of the results. JRD drafted the initial manuscript, made revisions and created all tables. CAR contributed to data interpretation, manuscript writing, and editing. CMK supervised environmental data analyses, and contributed to data interpretation, manuscript writing, and editing. He collected and analyzed the data that was included in the supplement. STG assisted with study design and primary data acquisition. MS contributed to data analysis and interpretation of the results. PK designed and supervised the collection of the in-home and central site environmental data. EG designed the study protocol, oversaw all aspects of the study design, and contributed to data interpretation, manuscript writing, and editing. All authors approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jessica R. Deslauriers.

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Deslauriers, J.R., Redlich, C.A., Kang, CM. et al. Determinants of indoor carbonaceous aerosols in homes in the Northeast United States. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol (2022).

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  • Air pollution; Environmental monitoring; Personal exposure


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