Meeting News

Black carbon exposure highest among professional drivers

Shanon Lim
Shanon Lim

Professional drivers face higher levels of exposure to black carbon while working, with the highest levels of exposure observed among taxi drivers, a new study from the U.K. suggests.

Notably, the average driver exposure to black carbon in the study was approximately four times higher while driving than at home (4.1 µg/m3 vs. 1.1 µg/m3) — the level of which is similar to that of office workers sitting at their desks. Drivers also experienced spikes in exposure that often exceeded 100 µg/m3 and could last as long as a half-hour, according to data presented by Shanon Lim, air quality scientist at the Environmental Research Group and PhD candidate at King’s College London, at the European Respiratory Society International Congress.

Taxi drivers appeared to have the highest average level of exposure (6.5 µg/m3), whereas emergency service workers had the lowest (2.8 µg/m3).

Lim and colleagues also found that the average level of the drivers' black carbon exposure was higher compared with a busy London roadside, 3.1 µg/m3. Exposure also appeared to be higher among drivers who drove with their windows open.

“Two findings were a surprise: That black carbon exposures to these drivers were a third higher than what is measured at Marylebone Road, a busy, six-lane road in London, and that being inside a vehicle doesn’t necessarily offer any protection from air pollution. In fact, the opposite may be true: Air pollution can accumulate inside the vehicle for extended periods of time,” Lim wrote in an email to Healio Pulmonology.

Professional drivers face higher levels of exposure to black carbon while working, with the highest levels of exposure observed among taxi drivers, a new study from the U.K. suggests.
Source: Adobe Stock

For the study, the researchers asked 140 professional drivers to carry black carbon monitors, which were linked to GPS trackers and measured exposures levels once every minute, for 96 hours. Participants provided information about the type of vehicle that they drove, working hours and ventilation preferences.

Although the researchers did not evaluate clinical outcomes, their measurement of black carbon allowed insight into levels of occupational exposure to a diesel engine exhaust, which is classed as a group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, according to Lim.

A conversation with a professional driver who developed lung disease sparked interest in this topic, he said.

“My colleagues Dr. Ben Barratt and Dr. Ian Mudway were approached by a taxi driver at a conference who had developed COPD and hypothesized this was due to working as a driver for his working life,” Lim said. “This conversation piqued their interest into investigating the level of exposure to diesel exhaust in this group. A priority area of work for the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health is on preventing occupational cancers. We therefore approached them for funding to support this topic, with the objective of providing an evidence-based framework for companies to reduce drivers’ exposure and improve the well-being of the workforce.”

As a result of these findings, Lim and colleagues are exploring other such related avenues of investigation.

“We are currently testing practical interventions to reduce drivers’ exposure, including the use of in-cabin air filters. In the future, we would like to assess short-term respiratory effects experienced by these drivers due to this exposure,” Lim told Healio Pulmonology. – by Melissa Foster

Reference:

Lim S, et al. Abstract OA486. Presented at: European Respiratory Society International Congress; Sept. 28-Oct. 2, 2019; Madrid.

For more information:

Shanon Lim can be reached at shanon.lim@kcl.ac.uk.

Disclosure: This study was funded by the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

Shanon Lim
Shanon Lim

Professional drivers face higher levels of exposure to black carbon while working, with the highest levels of exposure observed among taxi drivers, a new study from the U.K. suggests.

Notably, the average driver exposure to black carbon in the study was approximately four times higher while driving than at home (4.1 µg/m3 vs. 1.1 µg/m3) — the level of which is similar to that of office workers sitting at their desks. Drivers also experienced spikes in exposure that often exceeded 100 µg/m3 and could last as long as a half-hour, according to data presented by Shanon Lim, air quality scientist at the Environmental Research Group and PhD candidate at King’s College London, at the European Respiratory Society International Congress.

Taxi drivers appeared to have the highest average level of exposure (6.5 µg/m3), whereas emergency service workers had the lowest (2.8 µg/m3).

Lim and colleagues also found that the average level of the drivers' black carbon exposure was higher compared with a busy London roadside, 3.1 µg/m3. Exposure also appeared to be higher among drivers who drove with their windows open.

“Two findings were a surprise: That black carbon exposures to these drivers were a third higher than what is measured at Marylebone Road, a busy, six-lane road in London, and that being inside a vehicle doesn’t necessarily offer any protection from air pollution. In fact, the opposite may be true: Air pollution can accumulate inside the vehicle for extended periods of time,” Lim wrote in an email to Healio Pulmonology.

Professional drivers face higher levels of exposure to black carbon while working, with the highest levels of exposure observed among taxi drivers, a new study from the U.K. suggests.
Source: Adobe Stock

For the study, the researchers asked 140 professional drivers to carry black carbon monitors, which were linked to GPS trackers and measured exposures levels once every minute, for 96 hours. Participants provided information about the type of vehicle that they drove, working hours and ventilation preferences.

Although the researchers did not evaluate clinical outcomes, their measurement of black carbon allowed insight into levels of occupational exposure to a diesel engine exhaust, which is classed as a group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, according to Lim.

A conversation with a professional driver who developed lung disease sparked interest in this topic, he said.

“My colleagues Dr. Ben Barratt and Dr. Ian Mudway were approached by a taxi driver at a conference who had developed COPD and hypothesized this was due to working as a driver for his working life,” Lim said. “This conversation piqued their interest into investigating the level of exposure to diesel exhaust in this group. A priority area of work for the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health is on preventing occupational cancers. We therefore approached them for funding to support this topic, with the objective of providing an evidence-based framework for companies to reduce drivers’ exposure and improve the well-being of the workforce.”

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As a result of these findings, Lim and colleagues are exploring other such related avenues of investigation.

“We are currently testing practical interventions to reduce drivers’ exposure, including the use of in-cabin air filters. In the future, we would like to assess short-term respiratory effects experienced by these drivers due to this exposure,” Lim told Healio Pulmonology. – by Melissa Foster

Reference:

Lim S, et al. Abstract OA486. Presented at: European Respiratory Society International Congress; Sept. 28-Oct. 2, 2019; Madrid.

For more information:

Shanon Lim can be reached at shanon.lim@kcl.ac.uk.

Disclosure: This study was funded by the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.