The Air Pollution Exposure Laboratory (APEL) for controlled human exposure to diesel exhaust and other inhalants: characterization and comparison to existing facilities

Inhal Toxicol. 2011 Mar;23(4):219-25. doi: 10.3109/08958378.2011.562256. Epub 2011 Mar 25.


Objective: The Air Pollution Exposure Laboratory (APEL) was designed for the controlled inhalation of human subjects to aged and diluted diesel exhaust (DE) to mimic "real-world" occupational and environmental conditions.

Methods: An EPA Tier 3-compliant, 6.0 kW diesel generator is operated under discrete cyclic loads to simulate diesel on-road emissions. The engine accepts standard ultra-low sulfur diesel or a variety of alternative fuels (such as biodiesel) via a partitioned tank. A portion of raw exhaust is drawn into the primary dilution system and is diluted 9:1 with compressed air at standard temperature (20°C) and humidity (40%) levels. The exhaust is further diluted approximately 25:1 by high efficiency particulate air (HEPA)-filtered air (FA) and then aged for 4 min before entering the 4 × 6 × 7-foot exposure booth. An optional HEPA filter path immediately proximal to the booth can generate a particle-reduced (gas-enriched) exposure. In-booth particulate is read by a nephelometer to provide an instantaneous light scattering coefficient for closed-loop system control. A Scanning Mobility Particle Sizer and multi-stage impactor measures particle size distribution. Filter sampling allows determination of sessional average concentrations of size-fractionated and unfractionated particulate oxidative potential, elemental carbon, organic carbon and trace elements.

Results: Approximately 300 μg/m(3) PM(2.5) is routinely achievable at APEL and is well characterized in terms of oxidative potential and elemental components.

Conclusion: APEL efficiently creates fresh DE, appropriately aged and diluted for human experimentation at safe yet realistic concentrations. Description of exposure characteristics allows comparison to other international efforts to deepen the current evidence base regarding the health effects of DE.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution / analysis*
  • Atmosphere Exposure Chambers / standards*
  • Biofuels / analysis
  • Carbon / metabolism
  • Compressed Air
  • Filtration / methods*
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure
  • Laboratories / standards*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Particle Size
  • Particulate Matter / metabolism
  • Sulfur / metabolism
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis*


  • Biofuels
  • Particulate Matter
  • Vehicle Emissions
  • Sulfur
  • Carbon