Diesel exhaust exposure among adolescents in Harlem: a community-driven study

Am J Public Health. 1999 Jul;89(7):998-1002. doi: 10.2105/ajph.89.7.998.


Objectives: This study sought individual-level data on diesel exhaust exposure and lung function among adolescents in Harlem as part of a community-driven research agenda.

Methods: High school students administered in-person surveys to seventh grade students to ascertain information on demographics, asthma history, and self-reported and maternal smoking. Urine samples were assayed for 1-hydroxypyrene (1-HP), a marker of diesel exhaust exposure, and cotinine, a marker of tobacco smoke exposure. Computer-assisted spirometry was used to measure lung function.

Results: Three quarters (76%) of the participating students had detectable levels of 1-HP. Three students (13%) had an FEF25-75 of less than or equal to 80% of their predicted measurements, and 4 students (17%) had results between 80% and 90% of the predicted value, all of which are suggestive of possible lung impairment.

Conclusions: These data suggest that most adolescents in Harlem are exposed to detectable levels of diesel exhaust, a known exacerbator and possible cause of chronic lung disorders such as asthma. Community-driven research initiatives are important for empowering communities to make needed changes to improve their environments and health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Cotinine / urine*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Pyrenes / analysis*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vehicle Emissions*


  • Pyrenes
  • Vehicle Emissions
  • Cotinine
  • 1-hydroxypyrene