Particulate Matter

Go outside and take a long, deep breath. Do your lungs feel suitably refreshed? If you’re in any one of a growing number of cities, the answer to that question may well be ‘no’. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a staggering 98% of large cities (those with more than 100,000 inhabitants) in low- and middle-income countries do not meet minimum air quality guidelines. The situation is better in high-income countries, but still, less than half of cities are up to standard.

Emerging evidence suggests that short episodes of high exposure to air pollution occur while commuting. These events can result in potentially adverse health effects. We present a quantification of the exposure of car passengers and cyclists to particulate matter (PM).

We have simultaneously measured concentrations (PNC, PM2.5 and PM10) and ventilatory parameters (minute ventilation (VE), breathing frequency and tidal volume) in three Belgian locations (Brussels, Louvain-la-Neuve and Mol) for 55 persons (38 male and 17 female).

A link between particulate matter (PM) exposure and inflammatory disease has been shown by many studies, but few have explored how the chemical composition of PM influences inflammatory processes. This study investigated the connection between different components of PM and markers of inflammation in the blood, finding that long-term exposure to transition metals, emitted by traffic and industry, may cause chronic inflammation.

Globally, more than 3.2 million premature deaths per year are attributed to due to exposure to ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5). A new study estimates that 2.1 million premature deaths could be avoided if countries achieved the WHO guideline for PM2.5. Even by meeting their closest WHO interim concentration targets could avoid 750 000 (23%) deaths attributed to PM2.5 per year.


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Ambient particulate matter may originate from various pollution sources which may have different impacts on human health. This issue’s cover article performed a detailed source appointment analysis for fine particles (PM2.5) in a severely polluted megacity (Beijing) in China, and made the first effort to link the changes in cardiopulmonary health indicators in human participants to appointed PM2.5 from different sources in the context of urban and suburban air pollution associated with accelerating socioeconomic expansions in China.


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CYCLING to work in cities may actually be bad for your heart because of the damaging pollutants inhaled.

Scientists have found that the heavy breathing of cyclists means they take in billions of tiny particles emitted mainly by diesel-powered vehicles. These pollutants reduce the heart's ability to respond to changes in levels of exercise.

The reduction in heart rate variability was on a par with that seen in people with cardiac disease, according to researchers, whose study on cyclists in Dublin has just been published.

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“Clean air for all - all for clean air”
Closing Conference on the European Year of Air (Council of Europe)
Strasbourg, 9 December 2013
Ladies and Gentlemen,
“Clean air for all - all for clean air”. This sounds like the slogan of the three musketeers'. Perhaps this should be expected here, in the country of Alexandre Dumas.