Ultrafine particle levels at an international port of entry between the US and Mexico: exposure implications for users, workers, and neighbors.


Exposure to diesel-emitted particles has been linked to increased cancer risk and cardiopulmonary diseases. Because of their size (<100 nm), exposure to ultrafine particles (UFPs) emitted from heavy-duty diesel vehicles (HDDV) might result in greater health risks than those associated with larger particles. Seasonal UFP levels at the International Bridge of the Americas, which connects the US and Mexico and has high HDDV traffic demands, were characterized. Hourly average UFP concentrations ranged between 1.7 × 10(3)/cc and 2.9 × 10(5)/cc with a mean of 3.5 × 10(4)/cc. Wind speeds <2 m s(-1) and temperatures <15 °C were associated with particle number concentrations above normal conditions. The presence of HDDV had the strongest impact on local UFP levels. Varying particle size distributions were associated with south- and northbound HDDV traffic. Peak exposure occurred on weekday afternoons. Although in winter, high exposure episodes were also observed in the morning. Particle number concentrations were estimated to reach background levels at 400 m away from traffic. The populations exposed to UFP above background levels include law enforcement officers, street vendors, private commuters, and commercial vehicle drivers as well as neighbors on both sides of the border, including a church and several schools.

DOI: 10.1038/jes.2012.119