Atmospheric Environment Vol. 31, No. 24, pp.

4253-4254 1997
© 1997 Elsevier Science Ltd
All rights reserved. Printed in Great Britain

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NEW DIRECTIONS
TOWARDS BETTER H U M A N EXPOSURE ESTIMATES FOR SETTING
OF AIR QUALITY STANDARDS
The adverse health effects associated with urban
air pollution, which include respiratory morbidity,
cardiovascular diseases and mortality, have contributed in creating public awareness of this kind of
pollution. Health risk evaluation and assessment
have now become important since these serve as
the basis for any re-formulation or review of
current air quality standards. While such standards
are intended to protect public health and the
environment in general, they may have a negative
impact on the economy of the region (as discussed
by S. K. Friedlander and M. Lippmann, in
Environmental Science and Technology, 28, pp.
148A-150A, 1994). Hence, exact measurements and
modelling of human exposures to environmental
pollutants are of crucial importance for the realistic
evaluation of public health risk and setting of
standards.
If we assume the pollutant concentration to be
spatially uniform over some three-dimensional
space (technically called a microenvironment) such
as the volume of an office or the confines of a
street, then the exposure for a person is calculated
as the product of the pollutant concentration
and time spent in that microenvironment. The
integrated human exposure would be the sum
of all such products. This assumption of spatial
uniformity in exposure models used in impact
assessments can be erroneous for certain microenvironments. The fact that fixed air monitoring
stations observe air quality levels that are different
from those people come into contact with in
their daily lives, was identified as early as 1980 by
W. R. Ott at Stanford University (Department of
Statistics Technical Report No. 32). More recently,
J. J. Vostal pointed out in Environmental Health
Perspectives (102, Supplement 4, pp. 101-106, 1994)
that oversimplified assumptions are frequently made
in exposure estimates, such as that pollutant
concentrations in various microenvironments are
identical to those recorded by remote air quality
monitors.
One microenvironment o f particular note is
the city street. We have developed a 'Street Level
Air Quality' (SLAQ) model (to be presented by
A. Micallef, R. B. Singh and J. J. Coils at the
l lth Annual Conference of The Aerosol Society,
U.K., 1997). This was run for different traffic and

meteorological conditions to generate lee and
windward vertical concentration profiles of suspended particulate matter and PM~0. Examples are
shown in Figure 1. The modelled, geometricallysymmetric, four-lane street had a width-to-height
ratio equal to 3.0 and a length of 200 m. The wind
was blowing normal to its orientation. The average
speed of the vehicles was assumed to be that of
typical urban areas, i.e. 20 kph. Figure l(a)
illustrates the vertical concentration profiles
obtained when traffic was heavy (c. 400 vehicles per
lane per hour) and turbulence was low (assuming
roof-top wind speed and insolation of 0.9 m s-1
and 0.1 kW m -2, respectively) giving rise to a
relatively large vertical concentration gradient. The
vertical concentration profiles in Figure l(b) were
for relatively low traffic volume (c. 140 vehicles per
lane per hour) and high environmentally-induced
turbulence (assuming roof-top wind speed and
insolation of 3.0 m s -1 and 0.5 kW m -2,
respectively).
In considering these variations in particulate
concentration in the street microenvironment, one
must bear in mind that epidemiological studies o f
urban air pollution have shown adverse health
effects to increase at the rate of 1% for each
1 /~g m -3 increase in black smoke (J. Sunyer et al.,
American Journal of Epidemiology, 134, pp. 277286, 1991), while studies conducted in different
cities of the United States showed that a rise in
PM10 of about 10 #g m -3 (as a 24-hour average)
may be associated with an increase in daily
mortality of about 1% (Expert Panel on Air
Quality Standards, Particles, HMSO, 1995). The
Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants
(Non-biological Particles and Health, HMSO, 1995)
posed another interesting and logical argument
which supports the idea that a small rise in PM10
concentration could be hazardous. They argued
that while a 1 #m particle of unit density is
equivalent to one-thousand 0.1 /~m particles in
terms of mass, the latter will have a surface area
ten times greater than the 1 /~m particle. Hence a
10% increase in PMI0 could represent a very large
percentage increase of both the number and surface
area of particles, and hence also of the toxic load
presented to the respiratory system.

4253

30 0 [~ 30 . as well as re-formulation of the concept of air quality standards may have to be a challenge for the year 2000. North American authors may contact Dr A.ac.uk.t 1°5. The time is ripe. Review. relating to both modelling and monitoring of air pollution.ac. Vertical concentration profiles of vehicle-generated total suspended particulate matter (SPM) and PM~0 for the lee and windward sides of a street canyon for different traffic and meteorological conditions. and different height groups.uk email: bsbxamm(~v sbn2. Loughborough LE12 5RD U. .~-co)-: .K. This more rigorous approach in exposure modelling would lead to better exposure estimates and health risk evaluation. U K . consisting of different breathing zones or layers associated with different height groups.sturges(a:uea.ac. or contact Dr W.nott.1156(wcompuserve.colls~a nottingham.com. T. the incidence of these diseases will not be a simple function of height but other factors will have to be taken into account. theretbre. I.SPM ( w i n d w a r d ~ pMx° (leeward) -'~'. Jeremy J. Certainly. See text for details.90 1 2 l-ldght(m) 3 0 l 2 I t ~ t (m) 3 SPM (leeward) -41". Please see http://www. to refine exposure models by further subdividing outdoor and indoor microenvironments. A. e-mail: ~'jeremy.htm for further details. University of Nottingham.uk Contributions to New Directions should be sent by e-mail to N E W . ph. All this may lead to a re-thinking of the whole concept of air quality standards and limit values and to the development of protocols. . into what we may call 'sub-microenvironments'.4254 New Directions ~ 4O '~20 offi30 7o. Naturally. and possibly to the identification of correlations between specific air pollution-induced diseases. which would take into account the above-mentioned t:actors. ~ . Coils ~ and Alfred Micallef b Department of Physiology and Environmental Science. Lefohn: e-mail 75655. further experimental and modelling work is warranted in this direction as it would give us a clear indication of the severity of the problem and help us protect the urban dwellers who are probably the ones at higher risk.uk/~e044/newd. Sturges: e-mail w. Sutton Bonington Campus.PMI° (windward) [ Fig. + 1-406-443-3389. +44-1603-592018.~----.-.uea. ph. D I R E C T I O N S ( a U E A . A C . wishes to thank the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in London for sponsoring his doctoral studies.M.ac.t ~.