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Res Rep Health Eff Inst. 2014 Mar;(180):3-37.

Characterizing ultrafine particles and other air pollutants in and around school buses.


Increasing evidence has demonstrated toxic effects of ultrafine particles (UFP*, diameter < 100 nm). Children are particularly at risk because of their immature respiratory systems and higher breathing rates per body mass. This study aimed to characterize UFP, PM2.5 (particulate matter < or = 2.5 microm in aerodynamic diameter), and other vehicular-emitted pollutants in and around school buses. Four sub-studies were conducted, including: 1. On-road tests to measure in-cabin air pollutant levels while school buses were being driven; 2. Idling tests to determine the contributions of tailpipe emissions from idling school buses to air pollutant levels in and around school buses under different scenarios; 3. Retrofit tests to evaluate the performance of two retrofit systems, a diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC) muffler and a crankcase filtration system (CFS), on reducing tailpipe emissions and in-cabin air pollutant concentrations under idling and driving conditions; and 4. High efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter air purifier tests to evaluate the effectiveness of in-cabin filtration. In total, 24 school buses were employed to cover a wide range of school buses commonly used in the United States. Real-time air quality measurements included particle number concentration (PNC), fine and UFP size distribution in the size range 7.6-289 nm, PM2.5 mass concentration, black carbon (BC) concentration, and carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations. For in-cabin measurements, instruments were placed on a platform secured to the rear seats inside the school buses. For all other tests, a second set of instruments was deployed to simultaneously measure the ambient air pollutant levels. For tailpipe emission measurements, the exhaust was diluted and then measured by instruments identical to those used for the in-cabin measurements. The results show that when driving on roads, in-cabin PNC, fine and UFP size distribution, PM2.5, BC, and CO varied by engine age, window position, driving speed, driving route, and operating conditions. Emissions from idling school buses increased the PNC close to the tailpipe by a factor of up to 26.0. Under some circumstances, tailpipe emissions of idling school buses increased the in-cabin PNC by factors ranging from 1.2 to 5.8 in the 10-30 nm particle size range. Retrofit systems significantly reduced the tailpipe emissions of idling school buses. With both DOC and CFS installed, PNC in tailpipe emissions dropped by 20%-94%. No unequivocal decrease was observed for in-cabin air pollutants after retrofitting. The operation of the air conditioning (AC) unit and the pollutant concentrations in the surrounding ambient air played more important roles than retrofit technologies in determining in-cabin air quality. The use of a HEPA air purifier removed up to 50% of in-cabin particles. Because each sub-study tested only a subset of the 24 school buses, the results should be seen as more exploratory than definitive.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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