Real-time and integrated measurement of potential human exposure to particle-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from aircraft exhaust

Environ Health Perspect. 2000 Sep;108(9):853-62. doi: 10.1289/ehp.00108853.


We used real-time monitors and low-volume air samplers to measure the potential human exposure to airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) concentrations during various flight-related and ground-support activities of C-130H aircraft at an Air National Guard base. We used three types of photoelectric aerosol sensors (PASs) to measure real-time concentrations of particle-bound PAHs in a break room, downwind from a C-130H aircraft during a four-engine run-up test, in a maintenance hangar, in a C-130H aircraft cargo bay during cargo-drop training, downwind from aerospace ground equipment (AGE), and in a C-130H aircraft cargo bay during engine running on/off (ERO) loading and backup exercises. Two low-volume air samplers were collocated with the real-time monitors for all monitoring events except those in the break room and during in-flight activities. Total PAH concentrations in the integrated-air samples followed a general trend: downwind from two AGE units > ERO-loading exercise > four-engine run-up test > maintenance hangar during taxi and takeoff > background measurements in maintenance hangar. Each PAH profile was dominated by naphthalene, the alkyl-substituted naphthalenes, and other PAHs expected to be in the vapor phase. We also found particle-bound PAHs, such as fluoranthene, pyrene, and benzo[a]pyrene in some of the sample extracts. During flight-related exercises, total PAH concentrations in the integrated-air samples were 10-25 times higher than those commonly found in ambient air. Real-time monitor mean responses generally followed the integrated-air sample trends. These monitors provided a semiquantitative temporal profile of ambient PAH concentrations and showed that PAH concentrations can fluctuate rapidly from a baseline level < 20 to > 4,000 ng/m(3) during flight-related activities. Small handheld models of the PAS monitors exhibited potential for assessing incidental personal exposure to particle-bound PAHs in engine exhaust and for serving as a real-time dosimeter to indicate when respiratory protection is advisable.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Air Movements
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Aircraft*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Particle Size
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / adverse effects
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Risk Assessment


  • Air Pollutants
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons