Long-term analysis of the relationships between indoor and outdoor fine particulate pollution: A case study using research grade sensors

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Sci Total Environ. 2021 Feb 12;776:145778. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.145778. Online ahead of print.


The growing concern of air quality and its associated health-related impacts has led to increased awareness of pollutant exposure. Most human populations spend the majority of their time indoors and the COVID-19 pandemic has likely exacerbated this behavior. While significant amounts of research have focused on outdoor air quality, to date there have been no studies that examined simultaneous long-term trends on indoor and outdoor air quality on a site using research-grade sensors. We measured fine particulate matter (PM2.5) for a year using sensors located on the rooftop, air handling room, and indoor office space in a building and captured the impacts of three types of regularly occurring elevated pollution events: wintertime atmospheric inversions, wildfires, and fireworks. The events had different magnitudes and durations, and infiltration rates varied for each event leading to dissimilar indoor air pollution levels. The building’s air handling unit and different environmental conditions (lower indoor humidity and temperature during the winter) combined to reduce indoor pollution from inversion events however, particulate matter from wildfires and fireworks infiltrated at higher rates. Together, this suggests possible intervention strategies, such as ventilation rates and filter upgrades, that could be used to mitigate contaminant intrusion during elevated pollution events. This year-long study illustrates an array of ways that elevated pollution events interact with the protective effects that buildings have against air pollution for its occupants. Furthermore, we show that outdoor air pollution is an important variable to consider when studying indoor air quality as contaminant infiltration is strongly dependent on the specific pollution source.

PMID:33647662 | DOI:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.145778