Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 419–429 | Cite as

Development and characterization of an exposure generation system to investigate the health effects of particles from fresh and aged traffic emissions

  • Vasileios PapapostolouEmail author
  • Joy E. Lawrence
  • Stephen T. Ferguson
  • Jack M. Wolfson
  • Edgar A. Diaz
  • John J. Godleski
  • Petros Koutrakis


Atmospheric photochemical reactions of vehicular primary emissions result in the formation of secondary organic aerosol (SOA). This is the first study that has investigated the toxicity of secondary particles based on fleet vehicular emissions. We developed methods for photochemical oxidation of traffic primary emissions to produce mixtures of primary and/or secondary particles suitable for animal exposures. The exposure generation system produced test atmospheres of primary (P), aged primary plus SOA (P + SOA), or SOA particles suitable for animal exposures. The system consists of (1) a sampling system to extract the traffic emissions from the plenum of a highway tunnel ventilation stack, (2) a photochemical chamber to simulate atmospheric aging, and (3) a nonselective diffusion denuder to remove gaseous pollutants prior to exposure. In the presence of traffic primary particles (P + SOA), a longer mean residence time resulted in a higher SOA yield. Higher baseline plenum primary particle mass concentration resulted in lower SOA yield. In the absence of primary particles (SOA), higher plenum gas concentrations resulted in higher SOA yield. Secondary aerosol was largely organic but contained some nitrate and sulfate. Formation of secondary aerosol is influenced significantly by reaction of primary gases with ·OH. The system (1) provides adequate flow and stable chamber output of P, P + SOA, and SOA for characterization and animal exposures and (2) generates reproducible exposure atmospheres of P, P + SOA, and SOA, all at consistent mass concentrations.


Vehicular emissions Photochemical chamber Secondary organic aerosol Health effects 



Black carbon


Concentrated ambient particles




Secondary organic aerosol


Toxicological Evaluation of Realistic Emission Source Aerosols


Carbon monoxide


Nitrogen oxides


Fluorinated ethylene propylene


Polyfluorinated alkene




High-efficiency particulate air


Hydroxyl radical


Mean residence time


Volatile organic compounds


Nitric oxide


Scanning Mobility Particle Sizer


Condensation Particle Counter


Aerodynamic Particle Sizer


Elemental carbon and organic carbon


Thermal optical reflectance


Particle mass


Pyrolyzed organic carbon concentration


Nitrogen dioxide


Nitric acid




Ammonium nitrate


Nitrate radical


Ammonium sulfate


Organic Carbon


Sulfur dioxide


Sulfuric acid



This publication was made possible by USEPA grants R-832416 and RD 83479801. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the grantee and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USEPA. Further, USEPA does not endorse the purchase of any commercial products or services mentioned in the publication. This work was also supported by the Harvard NIEHS Center for Environmental Health (grant P30ES00002). We thank Dr. Stephen Rudnick for reading the manuscript and providing helpful suggestions. We also thank Elena Austin, Samuel Pueringer, and Dr. Choong-Min Kang for technical assistance and/or analytical support.

Supplementary material

11869_2012_178_MOESM1_ESM.docx (29 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 28.8kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vasileios Papapostolou
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Joy E. Lawrence
    • 1
  • Stephen T. Ferguson
    • 1
  • Jack M. Wolfson
    • 1
  • Edgar A. Diaz
    • 1
  • John J. Godleski
    • 1
  • Petros Koutrakis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental HealthHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  2. 2.Exposure, Epidemiology and Risk Program, Department of Environmental HealthHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA

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