Estimates of community exposure and health risk to sulfur dioxide from power plant emissions using short-term mobile and stationary ambient air monitoring

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To estimate plausible health effects associated with peak sulfur dioxide (SO2) levels from three coal-fired power plants in the Baltimore, Maryland, area, air monitoring was conducted between June and September 2013. Historically, the summer months are periods when emissions are highest. Monitoring included a 5-day mobile and a subsequent 61-day stationary monitoring study. In the stationary monitoring study, equipment was set up at four sites where models predicted and mobile monitoring data measured the highest average concentrations of SO2. Continuous monitors recorded ambient concentrations each minute. The 1-min data were used to calculate 5-min and 1-hr moving averages for comparison with concentrations from clinical studies that elicited lung function decrement and respiratory symptoms among asthmatics. Maximum daily 5-min moving average concentrations from the mobile monitoring study ranged from 70 to 84 ppb (183–220 µg/m3), and maximum daily 1-hr moving average concentrations from the mobile monitoring study ranged from 15 to 24 ppb (39–63 µg/m3). Maximum 5-min moving average concentrations from stationary monitoring ranged from 39 to 229 ppb (102–600 µg/m3), and maximum daily 1-hr average concentrations ranged from 15 to 134 ppb (40–351 µg/m3). Estimated exposure concentrations measured in the vicinity of monitors were below the lowest levels that have demonstrated respiratory symptoms in human clinical studies for healthy exercising asthmatics. Based on 5-min and 1-hr monitoring, the exposure levels of SO2 in the vicinity of the C.P. Crane, Brandon Shores, and H.A. Wagner power plants were not likely to elicit respiratory symptoms in healthy asthmatics. Implications: Mobile and stationary air monitoring for SO2 were conducted to quantify short-term exposure risk, to the surrounding community, from peak emissions of three coal-fired power plants in the Baltimore area. Concentrations were typically low, with only a few 5-min averages higher than levels indicated during clinical trials to induce changes in lung capacity for healthy asthmatics engaged in exercise outdoors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1239-1246
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Air and Waste Management Association
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 3 2015


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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