Potential for city parks to reduce exposure to BTEX in air†
Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX) are hazardous air pollutants commonly found in outdoor air. Several studies have explored the potential of vegetation to mitigate BTEX in outdoor air, but they are limited to a northern temperate climate and their results lack consensus. To investigate this subject in a subtropical climate, we deployed passive air samplers for two weeks in parks and outside nearby residences at four locations: three in an urban area and one in a rural area in Alabama, USA. All BTEX concentrations were below health-based guidelines and were comparable to those found in several other studies in populated settings. Concentrations of TEX, but not benzene, were 3–39% lower in parks than at nearby residences, and the differences were significant. Site type (park vs. residential) was a significant predictor of TEX concentrations, while distance to the nearest major road was a significant predictor of BTX concentrations. In and around two of the parks, toluene : benzene ratios fell outside the range expected for vehicular emissions (p < 0.01), suggesting that there were additional, industrial sources of benzene near these two locations. The ratio of m-,p-xylene : ethylbenzene was high at all locations except one residential area, indicating that BTEX were freshly emitted. Concentrations of individual BTEX compounds were highly correlated with each other in most cases, except for locations that may have been impacted by nearby industrial sources of benzene. Results of this study suggest that parks can help reduce exposure to TEX by a modest amount in some situations.