Comparison of black smoke and PM2.5 levels in indoor and outdoor environments of four European cities

Environ Sci Technol. 2002 Mar 15;36(6):1191-7. doi: 10.1021/es010079n.


Recent studies on separated particle-size fractions highlight the health significance of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microm (PM2.5), but gravimetric methods do not identify specific particle sources. Diesel exhaust particles (DEP) contain elemental carbon (EC), the dominant light-absorbing substance in the atmosphere. Black smoke (BS) is a measure for light absorption of PM and, thus, an alternative way to estimating EC concentrations, which may serve as a proxy for diesel exhaust emissions. We analyzed PM2.5 and BS data collected within the EXPOLIS study (Air Pollution Exposure Distribution within Adult Urban Populations in Europe) in Athens, Basel, Helsinki, and Prague. 186 indoor/outdoor filter pairs were sampled and analyzed. PM2.5 and BS levels were lowest in Helsinki, moderate in Basel, and remarkably higher in Athens and Prague. In each city, Spearman correlation coefficients of indoor versus outdoor were higher for BS (range rspearman: 0.57-0.86) than for PM2.5 (0.05-0.69). In a BS linear regression model (all data), outdoor levels explained clearly more of indoor variation (86%) than in the corresponding PM2.5 model (59%). In conclusion, ambient BS seizes a health-relevant fraction of fine particles to which people are exposed indoors and outdoors and exposure to which can be assessed by monitoring outdoor concentrations. BS measured on PM2.5 filters can be recommended as a valid and cheap additional indicator in studies on combustion-related air pollution and health.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Cities
  • Environmental Monitoring / instrumentation
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Europe
  • Filtration
  • Particle Size
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Vehicle Emissions