- • We assessed factors affecting airborne endotoxin levels around subway air vents.
- • Eight locations were sampled for endotoxins and PM for over a year in Seoul.
- • Endotoxin levels were highest in fall and had patterns similar to airborne bacteria.
- • Levels in vents with glass walls and locations that allowed smoking were higher.
- • Installing barriers on vents may lessen exposure to endotoxins.
Levels of airborne endotoxins and particulate matter less than 10 μm and 2.5 μm in diameter (PM) were measured in the air vents of subway stations in Seoul, South Korea, and factors affecting both pollutants were analyzed. The measurements were completed from March 2016 to February 2017 for eight air vents situated at the ground level around the subway stations. A total of 166 air samples were collected and analyzed using the kinetic limulus amebocyte lysate assay. Endotoxin levels ranged from not detected to 1.986 EU m−3, with a mean of 0.227 EU m−3. The results showed significantly different PM levels from the measurements reported by AIRKOREA as part of the comprehensive air quality index. This can be attributed to different sampling sites in the same area. Endotoxin levels tended to be higher in fall compared to summer. Airborne bacteria levels showed a pattern similar to the endotoxin levels, but no significant association was reported between them. The levels of endotoxins around air vents with a glass cover and streets that allowed smoking were significantly higher than those not containing a walled barrier and streets in which smoking was prohibited. Multivariate regression analysis showed that the factors affecting endotoxin levels comprised air vents with a glass cover (coefficient = 0.106, p = 0.014) and season (coefficient = 0.062, p < 0.0001). Therefore, installing barriers on the air vents and prohibiting smoking in streets to which the vents open may be effective ways to lessen exposure to airborne endotoxin levels around air vents.