The contribution of traffic to indoor concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. Jul-Aug 1999;9(4):312-21. doi: 10.1038/sj.jea.7500034.


A photoelectric aerosol sensor (PAS) was used to measure real-time indoor concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) at three residences. Semi-quantitative measurements of total indoor particle-bound PAH and temperature were collected continuously every minute for approximately 2 weeks at each location. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of traffic on indoor concentrations of PAHs. This was accomplished by collecting indoor measurements at an urban, semi-urban, and suburban residential location with varying levels of, and proximity to, traffic. Since the homes were occupied, the effects of cooking, the dominant indoor source, were also examined among the three nonsmoking households. The results indicate that traffic was the main outdoor source of PAH concentrations measured indoors for all locations. In fact, a significant (p<0.001) traffic-related trend in weekday PAH concentration was detected with a geometric mean concentration at the urban location (31 ng/m3) nearly two times that at the semi-urban location (19 ng/m3) and over three times larger than the suburban location (8.0 ng/m3), once adjusted for indoor sources. Hourly average concentration profiles also revealed weekday rush hour peaks of PAHs at all locations. No pronounced peaks and significantly lower concentrations (10, 10, and 4.9 ng/m3) were seen during the weekends for all locations i.e., the urban, semi-urban and suburban locations, respectively. Indoor sources including frying/sautéing, broiling, and candle-burning were characterized by peak concentration, duration of PAH elevation, and potential dose. This analysis suggests that cooking, and especially frying/sautéing, may be an important source of indoor PAH concentrations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Boston
  • Carcinogens / analysis*
  • Cooking / methods
  • Environmental Monitoring* / methods
  • Humans
  • Massachusetts
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Suburban Health
  • Time Factors
  • Urban Health
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis*
  • Ventilation / methods


  • Carcinogens
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Vehicle Emissions