Document Type


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Statler College of Engineering and Mining Resources


Industrial and Managements Systems Engineering



Inhalation of diesel particulate matter (DPM) is known to have a negative impact on human health. Consequently, there are regulations and standards that limit the maximum concentrations to which persons may be exposed and the maximum concentrations allowed in the ambient air. However, these standards consider steady exposure over large spatial and time scales. Due to the nature of many vehicle exhaust systems, pedestrians in close proximity to a vehicle's tailpipe may experience events where diesel particulate matter concentrations are high enough to cause acute health effects for brief periods of time.


In order to quantify these exposure events, instruments which measure specific exhaust constituent concentrations were placed near a roadway and connected to the mouth of a mannequin used as a pedestrian surrogate. By measuring concentrations at the mannequin's mouth during drive-by events with a late model diesel truck, a representative estimate of the exhaust constituent concentrations to which a pedestrian may be exposed was obtained. Typical breathing rates were then multiplied by the measured concentrations to determine the mass of pollutant inhaled.


The average concentration of diesel particulate matter measured over the duration of a single drive-by test often exceeded the low concentrations used in human clinical studies which are known to cause acute health effects. It was also observed that higher concentrations of diesel particulate matter were measured at the height of a stroller than were measured at the mouth of a mannequin.


Diesel particulate matter concentrations during drive-by incidents easily reach or exceed the low concentrations that can cause acute health effects for brief periods of time. For the case of a particularly well-tuned late-model year vehicle, the mass of particulate matter inhaled during a drive-by incident is small compared to the mass inhaled daily at ambient conditions. On a per breath basis, however, the mass of particulate matter inhaled is large compared to the mass inhaled at ambient conditions. Finally, it was determined that children, infants, or people breathing at heights similar to that of a passing vehicle's tailpipe may be exposed to higher concentrations of particulate matter than those breathing at higher locations, such as adults standing up.

Source Citation

Buzzard, N.A., Clark, N.N. & Guffey, S.E. Investigation into pedestrian exposure to near-vehicle exhaust emissions. Environ Health 8, 13 (2009).


© 2009 Buzzard et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



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