Challenges in evaluating PM concentration levels, commuting exposure, and mask efficacy in reducing PM exposure in growing, urban communities in a developing country

Sci Total Environ. 2016 Feb 1;543(Pt A):416-424. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.10.163. Epub 2015 Nov 18.


Particulate matter (PM) contributes to an increased risk of respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, cancer, and preterm birth complications. This project assessed PM exposure in Eastern Indonesia's largest city, where air quality has not been comprehensively monitored. We examined the efficacy of wearing masks as an individual intervention effort to reduce in-transit PM exposures. Handheld particulate counters were used to investigate ambient air quality for spatial analysis, as well as the differences in exposure to PM2.5 and PM10 (μg/m(3)) by different transportation methods [e.g. motorcycle (n=97), pete-pete (n=53), and car (n=55); note: n=1 means 1m(3) of air sample]. Mask efficacy to reduce PM exposure was evaluated [e.g. surgical masks (n=39), bandanas (n=52), and motorcycle masks (n=39)]. A Monte Carlo simulation was used to provide a range of uncertainty in exposure assessment. Overall PM10 levels (91±124 μg/m(3)) were elevated compared to the World Health Organization (WHO)'s 24-hour air quality guideline (50 μg/m(3)). While average PM2.5 levels (9±14 μg/m(3)) were below the WHO's guideline (25 μg/m(3)), measurements up to 139 μg/m(3) were observed. Compared to cars, average motorcycle and pete-pete PM exposures were four and three times higher for PM2.5, and 13 and 10 times higher for PM10, respectively. Only surgical masks were consistent in lowering PM2.5 and PM10 (p<0.01). Young children (≤5) were the most vulnerable age group, and could not reach the safe dosage even when wearing surgical masks. Individual interventions can effectively reduce individual PM exposures; however, policy interventions will be needed to improve the overall air quality and create safer transportation.

Keywords: Children's health; Exposure; Indonesia; Mask efficacy; Particulate matter; Traffic.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data*
  • Developing Countries / statistics & numerical data
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Indonesia
  • Masks*
  • Particulate Matter / analysis*
  • Transportation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter