Identification of surrogate measures of diesel exhaust exposure in a controlled chamber study

Jon R. Sobus, Joachim D. Pleil, Michael C. Madden, William E. Funk, Heidi F. Hubbard, Stephen M. Rappaport

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Exposure to diesel exhaust (DE) has been associated with acute cardiopulmonary and vascular responses, chronic noncancer health effects, and respiratory cancers in humans. To better understand DE exposures and eventually their related health effects, we established a controlled chamber experiment wherein human volunteer subjects were exposed to approximately 100 μg/m 3 DE. In general, human exposure assessment for DE is based on ambient air measurements of surrogates such as elemental carbon (EC) or total organic carbon (OC) collected on filters. As specific health effect mechanisms and dose-response are obscured bythe complex composition of DE, the linkage from exposure to internal dose can presumably be improved by use of specific biomarkers and metabolites in blood, breath, or urine. Because EC and OC are not suitable as biomarkers, in this study, we focus on identifying compounds that are demonstrated indicators of DE and can also be found in biological fluids. We measured an assortment of volatile, semivolatile, and particle-bound aromatic compounds in the chamber air and report their airborne concentrations in DE and purified air, as well as the estimated values of the corresponding exposure ratios (mean DE air concentration:mean purified air concentration). These estimated exposure ratios were used to identify naphthalene (Nap) and phenanthrene (Phe) as potentially useful surrogates for DE exposure that could also serve as biomarkers. Estimated mean levels of Nap and Phe associated with the nominal 100 μg/m3 DE were 2600 and 765 ng/m3 with estimated exposure ratios of 252 and 92.4, respectively. Nap levels were significantly correlated with OC and total particle-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); Phe levels were significantly correlated with total volatile + semivolatile PAHs. These results suggest that Nap and Phe may be particularly useful surrogates for DE concentrations. While Nap and Phe are not validated here as internal biomarkers of DE exposure, we are currently assessing human biological specimens collected during this study and will discuss those results in ensuing papers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8822-8828
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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