Exposures to multiple air toxics in New York City

Efforts to assess health risks associated with exposures to multiple urban air toxics have been hampered by the lack of exposure data for people living in urban areas. The TEACH (Toxic Exposure Assessment, a Columbia/Harvard) study was designed to characterize levels of and factors influencing personal exposures to urban air toxics among high school students living in inner-city neighborhoods of New York City and Los Angeles, California. This present article reports methods and data for the New York City phase of TEACH, focusing on the relationships between personal, indoor, and outdoor concentrations in winter and summer among a group of 46 high school students from the A. Philip Randolph Academy, a public high school located in the West Central Harlem section of New York City. Air pollutants monitored included a suite of 17 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and aldehydes, particulate matter with a mass median aerodynamic diameter <or= 2.5 microm (PM2.5), black carbon, and a suite of 28 particle-associated trace elements. Sequential 48-hr ambient samples also were collected over 8 weeks in each season at an urban fixed site and an upwind, nonurban fixed site. Personal, indoor, and outdoor concentrations of particle elements were generally similar, suggesting that ambient sources may have driven indoor and personal exposures for most elements. More varied relationships among personal, home indoor, and home outdoor concentrations were observed for VOCs and aldehydes. For formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, and several VOCs, indoor concentrations far exceeded outdoor levels and appeared to dominate personal exposures. Strong seasonal differences in indoor to outdoor concentration ratios were observed for these compounds, reflecting the influence of home air exchange rates. For other VOCs, especially those related to motor vehicle exhaust, more consistent indoor, outdoor, and personal concentrations were observed, suggesting that ambient concentrations may have been the driving force for personal exposures to some VOCs. These results demonstrate exposures to a wide range of air toxic pollutants among young people attending school in inner-city New York.

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