Occupational exposure to ultrafine particles among airport employees--combining personal monitoring and global positioning system

PLoS One. 2014 Sep 9;9(9):e106671. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106671. eCollection 2014.


Background: Exposure to ultrafine particles (UFP) has been linked to cardiovascular and lung diseases. Combustion of jet fuel and diesel powered handling equipment emit UFP resulting in potentially high exposure levels among employees working at airports. High levels of UFP have been reported at several airports, especially on the apron, but knowledge on individual exposure profiles among different occupational groups working at an airport is lacking.

Purpose: The aim of this study was to compare personal exposure to UFP among five different occupational groups working at Copenhagen Airport (CPH).

Method: 30 employees from five different occupational groups (baggage handlers, catering drivers, cleaning staff and airside and landside security) at CPH were instructed to wear a personal monitor of particle number concentration in real time and a GPS device. The measurements were carried out on 8 days distributed over two weeks in October 2012. The overall differences between the groups were assessed using linear mixed model.

Results: Data showed significant differences in exposure levels among the groups when adjusted for variation within individuals and for effect of time and date (p<0.01). Baggage handlers were exposed to 7 times higher average concentrations (geometric mean, GM: 37×103 UFP/cm(3), 95% CI: 25-55 × 10(3) UFP/cm(3)) than employees mainly working indoors (GM: 5 × 10(3) UFP/cm(3), 95% CI: 2-11 × 103 UFP/cm(3)). Furthermore, catering drivers, cleaning staff and airside security were exposed to intermediate concentrations (GM: 12 to 20 × 10(3) UFP/cm(3)).

Conclusion: The study demonstrates a strong gradient of exposure to UFP in ambient air across occupational groups of airport employees.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Airports*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Female
  • Geographic Information Systems*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Occupations
  • Particle Size*
  • Particulate Matter / analysis*
  • Particulate Matter / chemistry*


  • Particulate Matter

Grant support

This study was supported by a grant from The Danish Working Environment Research Fund (Journal no: 20110081336). The three Nano Tracers were purchased with funds from Center for Indoor air and Health in dwellings (CISBO). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.