MBTA studies potential pathogen flow in subways

Officials with Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority subway system announced that Boston commuters may notice scientific equipment and researchers with testing equipment as studies of the system’s airflow system continue.

The study is a continuation of a Department of Homeland research aimed at gathering data on the behavior of airborne contaminants such as bioweapons if they were to be released into the subway.

The study will involve releasing non-toxic, inert, odorless gas and particle tracers into the subway system. The concentrations will be sampled in more than 20 stations and in subway cars covering the entirety of the underground portion of the MBTA subway system.

“The movement of airborne contaminants can be affected by differences in temperature and humidity, so a comprehensive study requires gathering data in both winter and summer months,” program manager Teresa Lustig said. “In addition to comparing the effects of seasonal conditions, a second phase of the study also allows us to test the effectiveness of some of the proposed countermeasure and response strategies derived from analysis of the December tests.”

MBTA Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan said that passengers should know that the MBTA is working closely with federal partners to make the transit system as safe as possible.

Although equipment will be visible, officials say the study will not disrupt normal activities or present any inconvenience to the public.