Main content area

Characterization of traffic-related air pollutant metrics at four schools in El Paso, Texas, USA: Implications for exposure assessment and siting schools in urban areas

Raysoni, Amit U., Stock, Thomas H., Sarnat, Jeremy A., Montoya Sosa, Teresa, Ebelt Sarnat, Stefanie, Holguin, Fernando, Greenwald, Roby, Johnson, Brent, Li, Wen-Whai
Atmospheric environment 2013 v.80 pp. 140-151
BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene), United States Environmental Protection Agency, air, air pollution, atmospheric chemistry, benzene, carbon, children, elementary schools, exposure assessment, monitoring, nitrogen dioxide, particulates, pollutants, toluene, traffic, urban areas, volatile organic compounds, xylene, Texas
Children spend substantial amount of time within school microenvironments; therefore, assessing school-based exposures is essential for characterizing and preventing children's health risks to air pollutants. Indeed, the importance of characterizing children's exposures in schools is recognized by the US Environmental Protection Agency's recent initiative to promote outdoor air monitoring networks near schools. As part of a health effects study investigating the impact of traffic-related air pollution on asthmatic children along the US–Mexico border, this research examines children's exposures to, and spatio-temporal heterogeneity in concentrations of, traffic-related air pollutants at four elementary schools in El Paso, Texas. Three schools were located in an area of high traffic density and one school in an area of low traffic density. Paired indoor and outdoor concentrations of 48-h fine and coarse particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10–2.5), 48-h black carbon (BC), 96-h nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and 96-h volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were measured for 13 weeks at each school. Outdoor concentrations of PM, NO2, BC, and BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, m,p-xylene, o-xylene) compounds were similar among the three schools in the high-traffic zone in contrast to the school in the low-traffic zone. Results from this study and previous studies in this region corroborate the fact that PM pollution in El Paso is dominated by coarse PM (PM10–2.5) and fine fraction (PM2.5) accounts for only 25–30% of the total PM mass in PM10. BTEX species and BC are better surrogates for traffic air pollution in this region. Correlation analyses indicate a range of association between indoor and outdoor pollutant concentrations due to uncontrollable factors like student foot traffic and varying building and ventilation configurations across the four schools. Results suggest the need of micro-scale monitoring for children's exposure assessment, which may not be adequately characterized by the measurements from a centralized monitoring site.