The Fort Collins Commuter Study: Impact of route type and transport mode on personal exposure to multiple air pollutants

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Abstract

Traffic-related air pollution is associated with increased mortality and morbidity, yet few studies have examined strategies to reduce individual exposure while commuting. The present study aimed to quantify how choice of mode and route type affects personal exposure to air pollutants during commuting. We analyzed within-person difference in exposures to multiple air pollutants (black carbon (BC), carbon monoxide (CO), ultrafine particle number concentration (PNC), and fine particulate matter (PM2.5)) during commutes between the home and workplace for 45 participants. Participants completed 8 days of commuting by car and bicycle on direct and alternative (reduced traffic) routes. Mean within-person exposures to BC, PM2.5, and PNC were higher when commuting by cycling than when driving, but mean CO exposure was lower when cycling. Exposures to CO and BC were reduced when commuting along alternative routes. When cumulative exposure was considered, the benefits from cycling were attenuated, in the case of CO, or exacerbated, in the case of particulate exposures, owing to the increased duration of the commute. Although choice of route can reduce mean exposure, the effect of route length and duration often offsets these reductions when cumulative exposure is considered. Furthermore, increased ventilation rate when cycling may result in a more harmful dose than inhalation at a lower ventilation rate.

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