Atmospheric BTEX-concentrations in an area with intensive street traffic

13 November 2019

Buczynska, A.J., Krata, A., Stranger, M., Locateli Godoi, A.F.

Atmospheric Environment, 2009, 43, 311–318.

The major threat to clean air in developed and industrializing countries is now posed by traffic emissions. The effects of traffic road modifications on the air quality are, however, rarely reported in the literature. The aim of this study was to determine the influence of the modernization and renovation of a traffic artery in the region of Mortsel (Antwerp, Belgium) on the concentration of volatile organic compounds such as: benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and m-, p-, o-xylenes (BTEX). The original goal of the reconstruction works was to reduce the traffic lanes of one of the busiest streets in Antwerp, in order to discourage the road traffic and in consequence also to improve the air quality in this region. The average concentrations of BTEX before these works in 2003 were: 1.6, 7.0, 0.9, 2.3, and 0.9 μg/m3, for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, m + p xylenes, and o-xylene, respectively. However, after the completion of the works, in 2005, they were slightly higher: 2.5, 9.5, 1.6, 3.4, and 1.3 μg/m3, respectively. The scatter plots of benzene against toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes in 2003 and 2005 showed very good correlations. This fact indicated that all of the measured compounds originated from the same source, namely the road traffic. Moreover, the data obtained from an air-monitoring station at less than 6 km distance from the sampling site (operated by the Flemish Environment Agency, and located in Borgerhout, Antwerp), confirmed the lack of influence of background concentrations of BTEX. The obtained results led to the conclusion that the reduction of the number of traffic lanes had apparently increased the traffic jams and also increased the emission from cars. Therefore, these modernization works had even a negative impact on the local concentration of traffic-related pollutants as BTEX.