Personal exposure to black carbon in Stockholm, using different intra-urban transport modes
The traffic microenvironment has been shown to be a major contributor to the total personal exposure of black carbon (BC), and is key to local actions aiming at reducing health risks associated with such exposure. The main aim of the study was to get a better understanding of the determinants of traffic-related personal exposure to BC in an urban environment.
Personal exposure to ambient levels of BC was monitored while walking, cycling and traveling by bus or car along four streets and while cycling alternative routes simultaneously. Monitoring was performed during morning and afternoon peak hours and at midday, with a portable aethalometer recording one-minute mean values. In all, >4000 unique travel passages were performed. Stepwise Linear Regression was used to assess predictors to personal exposure levels of BC.
The personal BC concentration ranged 0.03–37 μg/m3. The average concentrations were lowest while walking (1.7 μg/m3) and highest traveling by bus (2.7 μg/m3). However, only 22% of the variability could be explained by travel mode, urban background BC and wind speed. BC concentrations measured inside a car were on average 33% lower than measured simultaneously outside the car. Choosing an alternative bicycle route with less traffic resulted in up to 1.4 μg/m3 lower personal exposure concentrations.
In conclusion, traveling by bus rendered the highest personal BC concentrations. But when taking travel time and inhalation rate into account, the travel-related exposure dose was predicted to be highest during walking and cycling. It is however probable that the benefits from physical activity outweigh health risks associated with this higher exposure dose.
It is clear that road traffic makes an important contribution to personal exposure to BC regardless of mode of intra-urban transport. Our data suggest that commuting along routes with lower BC levels would substantially decrease commuter's exposure.