Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Short-Term Particulate Threat: Pollution Standard May Not Protect Health

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Short-Term Particulate Threat: Pollution Standard May Not Protect Health

Article excerpt

Many studies have shown that particulate matter (PM) poses health risks, yet the attributes of PM that cause these effects remain uncertain. To address some of those critical nuances, especially the short-term effects of specific emissions, researchers used a refined approach, including new application of a pollutant distribution model, to assess links between deaths and two PM components, black carbon and sulfate particles [EHP 115:751-755; Maynard et al.]. They found that as the air concentration of either component increased, there were more deaths the following day. These results occurred even at concentrations below current U.S. standards for fine particulates.

Sulfate exposure in the northeastern United States comes in large part from coal-fired power plants. Black carbon is a surrogate for vehicle-related pollution that varies significantly over short distances. The researchers used data from a central monitor at the Harvard School of Public Health to determine concentrations of sulfates and assumed there were homogenous concentrations throughout the study area, a premise other studies have validated. To estimate concentrations of black carbon, they used a model that began its calculations with daily data from another monitor at the school. The model then estimated black carbon concentrations at more than 80 representative sites in the Boston area, incorporating variables such as weather, season, day of week, traffic volume, proximity to major roadways, population density, and percent urbanization. …

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