Personal exposure monitoring of PM2.5 among US diplomats in Kathmandu during the COVID-19 lockdown, March to June 2020

Leslie Edwards, Gemma Rutter, Leslie Iverson, Laura Wilson, Tandeep S. Chadha, Paul Wilkinson, Ai Milojevic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The 2019 Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV 2 (COVID-191) pandemic has severely impacted global health, safety, economic development and diplomacy. The government of Nepal issued a lockdown order in the Kathmandu Valley for 80 days from 24 March to 11 June 2020. This paper reports associated changes in ambient PM2.5 measured at fixed-site monitors and changes in personal exposure to PM2.5 monitored by APT Minima by four American diplomats who completed monitoring before and during lockdown (24 h for each period per person, 192 person-hours in total). Time activities and use of home air pollution mitigation measures (use of room air cleaners (RACs), sealing of homes) were recorded by standardized diary. We compared PM2.5 exposure level by microenvironment (home (cooking), home (other activities), at work, commuting, other outdoor environment) in terms of averaged PM2.5 concentration and the contribution to cumulative personal exposure (the product of PM2.5 concentration and time spent in each microenvironment). Ambient PM2.5 measured at fixed-sites in the US Embassy and in Phora Durbar were 38.2% and 46.7% lower than during the corresponding period in 2017–2019. The mean concentration of PM2.5 to which US diplomats were exposed was very much lower than the concentrations of ambient levels measured at fixed site monitors in the city both before and during lockdown. Within-person comparisons suggest personal PM2.5 exposure was 50.0% to 76.7% lower during lockdown than before it. Time spent outdoors and cooking at home were large contributors to cumulative personal exposure. Low indoor levels of PM2.5 were achieved at work and home through use of RACs and measures to seal homes against the ingress of polluted air from outside. Our observations indicate the potential reduction in exposure to PM2.5 with large-scale changes to mainly fossil-fuel related emissions sources and through control of indoor environments and activity patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number144836
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Jun 10 2021


  • Air quality
  • COVID lockdown
  • Kathmandu
  • Mitigation
  • PM
  • Personal monitoring
  • Room air cleaners

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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