Physicochemical characteristics and occupational exposure to coarse, fine and ultrafine particles during building refurbishment activities

Farhad Azarmi, Prashant Kumar, Mike Mulheron, Julien L. Colaux, Chris Jeynes, Siavash Adhami, John F. Watts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract: Understanding of the emissions of coarse (PM10 ≤10 μm), fine (PM2.5 ≤2.5 μm) and ultrafine particles (UFP <100 nm) from refurbishment activities and their dispersion into the nearby environment is of primary importance for developing efficient risk assessment and management strategies in the construction and demolition industry. This study investigates the release, occupational exposure and physicochemical properties of particulate matter, including UFPs, from over 20 different refurbishment activities occurring at an operational building site. Particles were measured in the 5–10,000-nm-size range using a fast response differential mobility spectrometer and a GRIMM particle spectrometer for 55 h over 8 days. The UFPs were found to account for >90 % of the total particle number concentrations and <10 % of the total mass concentrations released during the recorded activities. The highest UFP concentrations were 4860, 740, 650 and 500 times above the background value during wall-chasing, drilling, cementing and general demolition activities, respectively. Scanning electron microscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and ion beam analysis were used to identify physicochemical characteristics of particles and attribute them to probable sources considering the size and the nature of the particles. The results confirm that refurbishment activities produce significant levels (both number and mass) of airborne particles, indicating a need to develop appropriate regulations for the control of occupational exposure of operatives undertaking building refurbishment. Graphical Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Article number343
JournalJournal of Nanoparticle Research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Building refurbishment
  • Environmental, health and safety (EHS)
  • Occupational exposure
  • Particulate matter
  • SEM, XPS and IBA
  • Ultrafine particles

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