Gasoline vapor emissions during vehicle refuelling events in a vehicle fleet saturated with onboard refuelling vapor recovery systems: need for an exposure assessment


Background: Gasoline contains large proportions of harmful chemicals, which can be released during vehicle refueling. Onboard Refueling Vapor Recovery (ORVR) can reduce these emissions, but there is limited research on the system’s efficacy over time in an actual vehicle fleet. The aims of this study are: (1) determine the feasibility of using an infrared camera to view vapor emissions from refueling; (2) examine the magnitude of refueling-related emissions in an ORVR-saturated fleet, to determine need for an exposure-assessment. 

Methods: Using an infrared camera optimized for optical gas imaging of volatile organic chemicals, refueling was recorded for 16 vehicles at six gas stations. Pumps were inspected for damage, refueling shut-off valve functioning, and presence of Stage II Vapor Recovery. Vehicle make/model and age were recorded or estimated. 

Results: Vapor emissions were observed for 14 of 16 vehicles at each station, with severity varying substantially by vehicle make/model and age. Use of an infrared camera allowed for identification of vapor sources and timing of release, and for visualizing vapor trajectories. 

Discussion: Notably emissions occurred not only at the beginning and end of refueling but also throughout, in contrast to a prior study which did not detect increases in atmospheric hydrocarbon levels mid-refueling. Future studies are vitally needed to determine the risk to individuals during typical refueling in an ORVR saturated vehicle fleet. We recommend comprehensive exposure-assessment including real-time monitoring of emitted volatile organic compounds paired with infrared gas-imaging and measurement of internal dose and health effects of gas station customers.~sAuthors: Shearston JA, Hilpert M

Full Source: Frontiers in public health. 2020 Feb 7;8:18. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2020.00018. eCollection 2020.