The concentration of BTEX in selected urban areas of Malaysia during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown

Nor Syamimi Sufiera Limi Hawari, Mohd Talib Latif, Haris Hafizal Abd Hamid, Teoh Hwai Leng, Murnira Othman, Anis Asma Ahmad Mohtar, Azliyana Azhari, Doreena Dominick

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Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX) are air pollutants that harm human health. This study aims to identify BTEX concentrations before the lockdown known as the Movement Control Order was imposed (BMCO), during the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO), and then during the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO). These orders were introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia. The study utilised data measured by the continuous monitoring of BTEX using online gas chromatography instruments located at three urban area stations. The results showed that the BTEX concentrations reduced by between −38% and −46% during the MCO compared to the BMCO period. The reduction of human mobility during the MCO and CMCO influenced the lower BTEX concentrations recorded at a station within the Kuala Lumpur area. The results of the BTEX diagnostic ratios and principal component analysis showed that the major source of BTEX, especially during the BMCO and CMCO periods, was motor vehicle emissions. Further investigation, using correlation analysis and polar plots, showed that the BTEX concentrations were also influenced by meteorological variables such as wind speed, air temperature and relative humidity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101238
Number of pages13
JournalUrban Climate
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • BTEX
  • COVID-19
  • Motor vehicle
  • Movement control order

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