Characteristics of cabin air quality in school buses in Central Texas

Donghyun Rim, Jeffrey Siegel, Jarett Spinhirne, Alba Webb, Elena McDonald-Buller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


This study assessed in-cabin concentrations of diesel-associated air pollutants in six school buses with diesel engines during a typical route in suburban Austin, Texas. Air exchange rates measured by SF6 decay were 2.60-4.55 h-1. In-cabin concentrations of all pollutants measured exhibited substantial variability across the range of tests even between buses of similar age, mileage, and engine type. In-cabin NOx concentrations ranged from 44.7 to 148 ppb and were 1.3-10 times higher than roadway NOx concentrations. Mean in-cabin PM2.5 concentrations were 7-20 μg m-3 and were generally lower than roadway levels. In-cabin concentrations exhibited higher variability during cruising mode than frequent stops. Mean in-cabin ultrafine PM number concentrations were 6100-32,000 particles cm-3 and were generally lower than roadway levels. Comparison of median concentrations indicated that in-cabin ultrafine PM number concentrations were higher than or approximately the same as the roadway concentrations, which implied that, by excluding the bias caused by local traffic, ultrafine PM levels were higher in the bus cabin than outside of the bus. Cabin pollutant concentrations on three buses were measured prior to and following the phased installation of a Donaldson Spiracle Crankcase Filtration System and a Diesel Oxidation Catalyst. Following installation of the Spiracle, the Diesel Oxidation Catalyst provided negligible or small additional reductions of in-cabin pollutant levels. In-cabin concentration decreases with the Spiracle alone ranged from 24 to 37% for NOx and 26 to 62% and 6.6 to 43% for PM2.5 and ultrafine PM, respectively. Comparison of the ranges of PM2.5 and ultrafine PM variations between repetitive tests suggested that retrofit installation could not always be conclusively linked to the decrease of pollutant levels in the bus cabin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6453-6464
Number of pages12
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number26
StatePublished - Aug 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Environmental Science
  • Atmospheric Science


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