Chan 1991 - "Commuter Exposure to VOCs in Boston, Massachusetts"

Chan, Chang-Chuan; Spengler, John D; et al.
"Commuter Exposure to VOCs in Boston, Massachusetts"
Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association
December 1991; v.41, n.12; pp.1594-1600
On the Web
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The authors measured VOC exposure for four commuting methods (car, subway, walking, biking) plus concentrations in homes, offices, and on the sidewalk in Boston. They found that concentrations were generally highest in cars and lowest in homes/offices. "For most VOCs, the concentrations in homes and offices were about three to five times lower than the VOC concentrations during commuting." Around 10-20% of daily VOC exposure for car and subway commuters occurred during the commute.

Driving on urban roads was correlated with higher VOC concentrations (1.5 times higher) than driving on interstates.  Using the heater also increased VOC levels. On the other hand, the age of the car or country of origin (US vs. imported) did not seem to make a difference.

In-car BTEX concentrations were:

  • 1.8-2.4 times higher than bicycle concentrations;
  • 2-2.4 times higher than subway concentrations (except for toluene);
  • 1.6-1.9 times higher than walking concentrations;
  • 4-5 times higher than home concentrations (except for toluene);
  • 4-6.8 times higher than office concentrations.


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