Personal exposure to equivalent black carbon in children in Milan, Italy: Time-activity patterns and predictors by season

Luca Boniardi, Evi Dons, Francesca Longhi, Chiara Scuffi, Laura Campo, Martine Van Poppel, Luc Int Panis, Silvia Fustinoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Air pollution is a global threat to public health, especially when considering susceptible populations, such as children. A better understanding of determinants of exposure could help epidemiologists in refining exposure assessment methods, and policy makers in identifying effective mitigation interventions. Through a participatory approach, 73 and 89 schoolchildren were involved in a two-season personal exposure monitoring campaign of equivalent black carbon (EBC) in Milan, Italy. GPS devices, time-activity diaries and a questionnaire were used to collect personal information. Exposure to EBC was 1.3 ± 1.5 μg/m3 and 3.9 ± 3.3 μg/m3 (mean ± sd) during the warm and the cold season, respectively. The highest peaks of exposure were detected during the home-to-school commute. Children received most of their daily dose at school and home (82%), but the highest dose/time intensity was related to transportation and outdoor environments. Linear mixed-effect models showed that meteorological variables were the most influencing predictors of personal exposure and inhaled dose, especially in the cold season. The total time spent in a car, duration of the home-to-school commute, and smoking habits of parents were important predictors as well. Our findings suggest that seasonality, time-activity and mobility patterns play an important role in explaining exposure patterns. Furthermore, by highlighting the contribution of traffic rush hours, transport-related microenvironments and traffic-related predictors, our study suggests that acting on a local scale could be an effective way of lowering personal exposure to EBC and inhaled dose of children in the city of Milan.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116530
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2021


  • Black carbon
  • Children
  • Exposure modelling
  • Participatory research
  • Personal monitoring
  • Time-activity pattern

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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