Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Particulate Matter (PM) Research Centers (1999-2005) and the Role of Interdisciplinary Center-Based Research

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Particulate Matter (PM) Research Centers (1999-2005) and the Role of Interdisciplinary Center-Based Research

Article excerpt

OBJECTIVE: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funded five academic centers in 1999 to address the uncertainties in exposure, toxicity, and health effects of airborne particulate matter (PM) identified in the "Research Priorities for Airborne Particulate Matter" of the National Research Council (NRC). The centers were structured to promote interdisciplinary approaches to address research priorities of the NRC. In this report, we present selected accomplishments from the first 6 years of the PM Centers, with a focus on the advantages afforded by the interdisciplinary, center-based research approach. The review highlights advances in the area of ultrafine particles and traffic-related health effects as well as cardiovascular and respiratory effects, mechanisms, susceptibility, and PM exposure and characterization issues.

DATA SOURCES AND SYNTHESIS: The collective publications of the centers served as the data source. To provide a concise synthesis of overall findings, authors representing each of the five centers identified a limited number of topic areas that serve to illustrate the key accomplishments of the PM Centers program, and a consensus statement was developed.

CONCLUSIONS: The PM Centers program has effectively applied interdisciplinary research approaches to advance PM science.

KEY WORDS: acute effects, biological mechanisms, chronic effects, criteria pollutants, dosimetry, exposure assessment, morbidity, mortality, particulate matter. Environ Health Perspect 117:167-174 (2009). doi:10.1289/ehp. 11543 available via http://dx.doi.org/[Online 15 September 2008]

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funded five academic centers in 1999 to address the uncertainties in exposure, toxicity and health effects of airborne particulate matter (PM) identified in the "Research Priorities for Airborne Particulate Matter" of the National Research Council (NRC 1998). Centers were established at Harvard University (Boston, MA), New York University (New York, NY), University of Rochester (Rochester, NY), University of Washington (Seattle, WA), University of California (Irvine, CA), University of California (Los Angeles, CA), and University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA). All centers were structured to promote interdisciplinary approaches to address the research priorities of the NRC. A midterm report of PM Center findings was published previously (Lippmann et al. 2003). This report highlights selected accomplishments from the first 6 years of the PM Centers, with a focus on the advantages of interdisciplinary, center-based research. A more detailed summary of research findings and bibliography may be found in supplemental material available from the U.S. EPA PM Centers website (U.S. EPA 2008).

PM Exposure Research Highlights

Characterization of ambient PM. The PM Centers worked to characterize ambient PM and the substantial variation of concentration and composition with source, region, seasonal and diurnal patterns, and size fraction. Examples of these findings follow. In the eastern United States, [PM.sub.2.5] (PM with aerodynamic diameter < 2.5 [micro]m) composition varies seasonally, with relatively more sulfate from long-range transport in the winter, and nitrate in the summer. Substantial spatial variability in PM components and copollutants was observed (Maciejczyk and Chen 2005). In the Pacific Northwest, organic carbon (OC) derived from wood burning is a major contributor to fine particle mass (Larson et al. 2006). [PM.sub.10] (PM < 10 [micro]m in aerodynamic diameter) collected in Southern California derives largely from road dust and soil and contains significant quantities of metals, whereas [PM.sub.2.5] from the same locations contains primarily nitrates, OC, and elemental carbon (EC). Ultrafine PM (UFP; PM < 0.1 [micro]m in aerodynamic diameter) is especially high in OC (Sardar et al. 2005). Semivolatile components of PM have received increased attention in recent investigations, especially with regard to combustion-derived UFP in which a significant fraction of emissions by mass can consist of semivolatile material that has condensed onto a nonvolatile, primarily carbon core (Kuhn et al. …

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