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Literature review of epidemiology studies on the association between exposure to particulate matter and human health outcomes
Title of the book
Human health damage characterisation factors for particulate matter emissions to air for application in life cycle analysis
Bern : Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN)
Airborne particles can come from a variety of sources and contain variable chemical constituents. Some particles are formed by natural processes, such as volcanoes, erosion, sea spray, and forest fires, while other are formed by anthropogenic processes, such as industrial- and motor vehicle-related combustion, road-related wear, and mining. In general, larger particles (those greater than 2.5 μm) are formed by mechanical processes, while those less than 2.5 μm are formed by combustion processes. The chemical composition of particles is highly influenced by the source: for combustion-related particles, factors such as temperature of combustion, fuel type, and presence of oxygen or other gases can also have a large impact on PM composition. These differences can often be observed at a regional level, such as the greater sulphate-composition of PM in regions that burn coal for electricity production (which contains sulphur) versus regions that do not. Most countries maintain air monitoring networks, and studies based on the resulting data are the most common basis for epidemiology studies on the health effects of PM. Data from these monitoring stations can be used to evaluate the relationship between community-level exposure to ambient particles and health outcomes (i.e., morbidity or mortality from various causes). Respiratory and cardiovascular outcomes are the most commonly assessed, although studies have also considered other related specific outcomes such as diabetes and congenital heart disease. The data on particle characteristics is usually not very detailed and most often includes some combination of PM2.5, PM10, sulphate, and NO2. Other descriptors that are less commonly found include particle number (ultrafine particles), metal components of PM, local traffic intensity, and EC/OC. Measures of association are usually reported per 10 μg/m3 or interquartile range increase in pollutant concentration. As the exposure data are taken from regional monitoring stations, the measurements are not representative of an individual's exposure. Particle size is an important descriptor for understanding where in the human respiratory system the particles will deposit: as a general rule, smaller particles penetrate to deeper regions of the lungs. Initial studies on the health effects of particulate matter focused on mass of the particles, including either all particles (often termed total suspended particulate or TSP) or PM10 (all particles with an aerodynamic diameter less than 10 μm). More recently, studies have considered both PM10 and PM2.5, with the latter corresponding more directly to combustion-related processes. UFPs are a dominant source of particles in terms of PNC, yet are negligible in terms of mass. Very few epidemiology studies have measured the effect of UFPs on health; however, the numbers of studies on this topic are increasing. In addition to size, chemical composition is of importance when understanding the toxicity of particles. Some studies consider the composition of particles in addition to mass; however this is not common, in part due the cost and labour involved in such analyses.
Particulate Matter , Occupational Exposure , Environmental Exposure , Epidemiologic Studies
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