Mass, surface area and number metrics in diesel occupational exposure assessment

Gurumurthy Ramachandran, Dwane Paulsen, Winthrop Watts, David Kittelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


While diesel aerosol exposure assessment has traditionally been based on the mass concentration metric, recent studies have suggested that particle number and surface area concentrations may be more health-relevant. In this study, we evaluated the exposures of three occupational groups-bus drivers, parking garage attendants, and bus mechanics-using the mass concentration of elemental carbon (EC) as well as surface area and number concentrations. These occupational groups are exposed to mixtures of diesel and gasoline exhaust on a regular basis in various ratios. The three groups had significantly different exposures to workshift TWA EC with the highest levels observed in the bus garage mechanics and the lowest levels in the parking ramp booth attendants. In terms of surface area, parking ramp attendants had significantly greater exposures than bus garage mechanics, who in turn had significantly greater exposures than bus drivers. In terms of number concentrations, the exposures of garage mechanics exceeded those of ramp booth attendants by a factor of 5-6. Depending on the exposure metric chosen, the three occupational groups had quite different exposure rankings. This illustrates the importance of the choice of exposure metric in epidemiological studies. If these three occupational groups were part of an epidemiological study, depending on the metric used, they may or may not be part of the same similarly exposed group (SEG). The exposure rankings (e.g., low, medium, or high) of the three groups also changes with the metric used. If the incorrect metric is used, significant misclassification errors may occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)728-735
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Environmental Monitoring
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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