Air change rates of motor vehicles and in-vehicle pollutant concentrations from secondhand smoke

J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2008 May;18(3):312-25. doi: 10.1038/sj.jes.7500601. Epub 2007 Jul 18.


The air change rates of motor vehicles are relevant to the sheltering effect from air pollutants entering from outside a vehicle and also to the interior concentrations from any sources inside its passenger compartment. We made more than 100 air change rate measurements on four motor vehicles under moving and stationary conditions; we also measured the carbon monoxide (CO) and fine particle (PM(2.5)) decay rates from 14 cigarettes smoked inside the vehicle. With the vehicle stationary and the fan off, the ventilation rate in air changes per hour (ACH) was less than 1 h(-1) with the windows closed and increased to 6.5 h(-1) with one window fully opened. The vehicle speed, window position, ventilation system, and air conditioner setting was found to affect the ACH. For closed windows and passive ventilation (fan off and no recirculation), the ACH was linearly related to the vehicle speed over the range from 15 to 72 mph (25 to 116 km h(-1)). With a vehicle moving, windows closed, and the ventilation system off (or the air conditioner set to AC Max), the ACH was less than 6.6 h(-1) for speeds ranging from 20 to 72 mph (32 to 116 km h(-1)). Opening a single window by 3'' (7.6 cm) increased the ACH by 8-16 times. For the 14 cigarettes smoked in vehicles, the deposition rate k and the air change rate a were correlated, following the equation k=1.3a (R(2)=82%; n=14). With recirculation on (or AC Max) and closed windows, the interior PM(2.5) concentration exceeded 2000 microg m(-3) momentarily for all cigarettes tested, regardless of speed. The concentration time series measured inside the vehicle followed the mathematical solutions of the indoor mass balance model, and the 24-h average personal exposure to PM(2.5) could exceed 35 microg m(-3) for just two cigarettes smoked inside the vehicle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Movements
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment
  • Temperature
  • Time Factors
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / analysis*
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis*
  • Vehicle Emissions / toxicity
  • Ventilation


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Vehicle Emissions