Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1998;24(6):481-485    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.372

Particle-bound benzene from diesel engine exhaust

by Muzyka V, Veimer S, Shmidt N

Objectives The large surface area of the carbon core of diesel exhaust particles may contribute to the adsorption or condensation of such volatile carcinogenic organic compounds as benzene. The attention of this study focused on determining the distribution of benzene between the gas and particulate phases in the breathing zone of bus garage workers.

Methods Benzene and suspended particulate matter were evaluated jointly in the air of a municipal bus garage. Personal passive monitors were used for benzene sampling in the breathing zone of the workers. Active samplers were used for sampling diesel exhaust particles and the benzene associated with them. The benzene levels were measured by gas chromatography.

Results Diesel engine exhaust from buses was the main source of air pollution caused by benzene and particles in this study. The concentration of benzene in the gas and particulate phases showed a wide range of variation, depending on the distance of the workplace from the operating diesel engine. Benzene present in the breathing zone of the workers was distributed between the gas and particulate phases. The amounts of benzene associated with particles were significantly lower in summer than in winter.

Conclusion The particulate matter of diesel exhaust contains benzene in amounts comparable to the concentrations of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and the usually found nitro-PAH. The concentration of benzene in the gas phase and in the suspended particulate matter of air can serve as an additional indicator of exposure to diesel exhaust and its carcinogenicity.