How Much Are We Exposed to Emissions from Road Construction Activities?

Featured Faculty: Arpad Horvath, Joshua Apte

CEE researchers co-authored a paper describing the process of developing a novel model quantifying PM2.5 exposure impacts from operating and maintaining paved roads in the San Francisco Bay Area. The paper was co-authored by Postdoctoral Associate Fiona Greer (Ph.D., CEE 2021), ECIC Ph.D. student Ahmad Bin Thaneya, and Professors Arpad Horvath and Joshua Apte in Environmental Research Letters.

It examines the PM2.5 exposure burden from maintaining and operating paved roads for people living in the San Francisco Bay Area. The research findings indicate that supply chain sources can significantly contribute to the full scope of impacts from road transportation. Under a scenario of annual road resurfacing practices, resurfacing activities, material production and delivery (i.e., cement, concrete, aggregate, asphalt, bitumen), and fuel (i.e., gasoline, diesel) supply chains contribute to almost 65% of annual PM2.5 intake from the sources in the study domain.

Complete electrification of on-road mobile sources would reduce annual intake by 64%, but a sizable portion would remain from material supply chains, construction activities, and brake and tire wear. People of color experience higher-than-average PM2.5 exposure disparities from the emission sources included in the study, particularly from material production. Environmental mitigation policies need to be equitable and tailored to address the sources that impact human communities the most.