Does Use of Biodiesel as an Alternative to Petroleum Diesel Reduce Risk for Worker Health and the Environment? Evaluation of Diesel Versus Biodiesel Exhaust Exposures for Employees at a Rural Recycling Center

EPA Grant Number: F5D30789
Title: Does Use of Biodiesel as an Alternative to Petroleum Diesel Reduce Risk for Worker Health and the Environment? Evaluation of Diesel Versus Biodiesel Exhaust Exposures for Employees at a Rural Recycling Center
Investigators: Velazquez, Nora Traviss
Institution: Antioch New England Graduate School - NH
EPA Project Officer: Zambrana, Jose
Project Period: May 1, 2005 through December 1, 2007
Project Amount: $111,172
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships


Many organizations interested in a renewable, "green" energy source have switched from petroleum diesel to biodiesel blends for transportation and heavy equipment use. While there is a growing body of evidence on the negative health impacts of petroleum diesel exhaust, there has been little research examining the effect switching to biodiesel may have on worker health and the environment. This research will evaluate biodiesel's potential as a risk reduction strategy for both worker health and the environment. The project will include a quantitative estimation of worker exposure to petroleum diesel and biodiesel exhaust in a 'real world' occupational setting that utilizes nonroad heavy-duty equipment.

The objective of this research is to use a novel combination of standard industrial hygiene and environmental air monitoring methods to estimate diesel and biodiesel exhaust exposures. I will test the hypothesis that biodiesel use reduces worker exposure and local area concentrations of specific hazardous air pollutants when compared to petroleum diesel.


The approach will include monitoring of both worker exposure and local air quality during typical work activities at a rural recycling center. I will compare concentrations of hazardous air pollutants measured during equipment operation using petroleum diesel and B20 (a 20% biodiesel/petroleum diesel blend). Work activities will be documented, meteorological conditions will be recorded, and vehicle traffic counts will be kept to collect information on potential sources of sample variability. The hazardous air pollutants that will be measured include PM 2.5 (particulate matter ≤ 2.5 Μm in diameter), EC/OC (elemental carbon/organic carbon) via NIOSH method 5040, carbonyl groups (including acetaldehyde and formaldehyde) via EPA Method TO-11A, and volatile organic carbons via EPA method TO-15. This quantitative evidence will be useful to help estimate potential health impacts to exposed populations (such as workers and local residents) from similar nonroad equipment operations.

Expected Results:

Pilot work conducted to date indicates biodiesel use results in a reduction of PM2.5, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde levels. However, results for air toxics of concern (such as benzene and 1, 3- butadiene) were inconclusive and point to the need for more research. Further data must be collected via a more comprehensive study to determine if these trends continue and to determine if any of these reductions are statistically significant.

Supplemental Keywords:

biodiesel, diesel exhaust, nonroad, exposure, particulate matter, air toxics, worker health, public health, risk reduction,, RFA, Health, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, TREATMENT/CONTROL, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, cleaner production/pollution prevention, waste reduction, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, Health Risk Assessment, Energy, Technology, Risk Assessments, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Chemicals Management, Environmental Engineering, Risk Assessment, waste to fuel conversion, energy conservation, waste minimization, alternative to petroleum diesel fuel, emissions measurement, renewable fuel production, diesel exhaust, emission controls, biotechnology, energy efficiency, alternative fuel, biodiesel fuel, biodiesel exposure, alternative energy source, environmentally benign alternative, worker health, exposure assessment, green chemistry, human health risk

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2005
  • 2006
  • Final