Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2023;49(6):367-374    pdf

https://doi.org/10.5271/sjweh.4089 | Published online: 07 May 2023, Issue date: 01 Sep 2023

The impact of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions on the short-term association between in-vehicle particulate pollutants and the respiratory health of Parisian taxi drivers

by Hachem M, Bensefa-Colas L, Momas I

Objectives This study assessed the short-term associations between in-vehicle ultrafine particles (UFP) and black carbon (BC) concentrations and irritation symptoms and lung parameters of taxi drivers, pre- and post-lockdown.

Methods As part of PUF-TAXI project, 33 taxi drivers were followed up during two typical working days. In-vehicle UFP and BC were continuously measured by monitoring instruments. Irritation symptoms during the working day were reported via an auto-questionnaire and lung function was assessed by a portable spirometer, pre- and post- work shift. Generalized estimating equations, adjusted for potential confounders, were used to study the association between air pollutants and health outcomes. Effect modification by measurement period (pre- and post-lockdown) was investigated.

Results UFP and BC concentrations inside taxi vehicles decreased significantly post- compared to pre-lockdown. Incidence of nose irritation was positively associated with in-vehicle UFP and BC levels pre-lockdown, when pollutant levels were higher, whereas no significant association was found post-lockdown. The decrease in the FEF25–75% (forced expiratory flow at 25–75% of the forced vital capacity) during the working day was significantly associated with in-taxi UFP levels before but not after lockdown. No association was found with BC. By contrast, incidence of eye irritation was significantly inversely associated with in-vehicle humidity, regardless of pollutant concentrations and the measurement period.

Conclusions Our findings indicate that an upgrade in in-vehicle air quality could improve respiratory health. This study showed that the magnitude of the incidence of nasal irritation and decrease in lung function depends on UFP concentrations the commuters are exposed to.

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