2010 - Research

Commuters’ Exposure to Particulate Matter Air Pollution Is Affected
by Mode of Transport, Fuel Type, and Route

Commuters are exposed to high concentrations of air pollutants, but little quantitative information is currently available on differences in exposure between different modes of transport, routes, and fuel types.

  • The aim of our study was to assess differences in commuters’ exposure to traffic-related air pollution related to transport mode, route, and fuel type.
  • The authors measured particle number counts (PNCs) and concentrations of PM2.5 (particulate matter ≤ 2.5 µm in aerodynamic diameter), PM10, and soot between June 2007 and June 2008 on 47 weekdays, from 0800 to 1000 hours, in diesel and electric buses, gasoline- and diesel-fueled cars, and along two bicycle routes with different traffic intensities in Arnhem, the Netherlands. In addition, each-day measurements were taken at an urban background location.
  • The study found that median PNC exposures were highest in diesel buses (38,500 particles/cm3) and for cyclists along the high-traffic intensity route (46,600 particles/cm3) and lowest in electric buses (29,200 particles/cm3). Median PM10 exposure was highest from diesel buses (47 µg/m3) and lowest along the high- and low-traffic bicycle routes (39 and 37 µg/m3). The median soot exposure was highest in gasoline-fueled cars (9.0 × 10–5/m), diesel cars (7.9 × 10–5/m), and diesel buses (7.4 × 10–5/m) and lowest along the low-traffic bicycle route (4.9 × 10–5/m). Because the minute ventilation (volume of air per minute) of cyclists, which the authors estimated from measured heart rates, was twice the minute ventilation of car and bus passengers, they calculated that the inhaled air pollution doses were highest for cyclists. With the exception of PM10, inhaled air pollution doses were lowest for electric bus passengers.
  • Commuters’ rush hour exposures were significantly influenced by mode of transport, route, and fuel type.

Zuurbier, M., G. Hoek, et al. (2010). "Commuters’ Exposure to Particulate Matter Air Pollution Is Affected
by Mode of Transport, Fuel Type, and Route." Environ Health Perspect 118(6).