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Air Pollution, Particulate Matter, Source-Specific, Health Effects

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Neil J. Hime 1,2,*, Guy B. Marks 1,3,4 and Christine T. Cowie 1,3,4


This article briefly reviews evidence of health effects associated with exposure to particulate matter (PM) air pollution from five common outdoor emission sources: traffic, coal-fired power stations, diesel exhaust, domestic wood combustion heaters, and crustal dust. The principal purpose of this review is to compare the evidence of health effects associated with these different sources with a view to answering the question: Is exposure to PM from some emission sources associated with worse health outcomes than exposure to PM from other sources? Answering this question will help inform development of air pollution regulations and environmental policy that maximises health benefits. Understanding the health effects of exposure to components of PM and source-specific PM are active fields of investigation. However, the different methods that have been used in epidemiological studies, along with the differences in populations, emission sources, and ambient air pollution mixtures between studies, make the comparison of results between studies problematic. While there is some evidence that PM from traffic and coal-fired power station emissions may elicit greater health effects compared to PM from other sources, overall the evidence to date does not indicate a clear ‘hierarchy’ of harmfulness for PM from different emission sources. Further investigations of the health effects of source-specific PM with more advanced approaches to exposure modeling, measurement, and statistics, are required before changing the current public health protection approach of minimizing exposure to total PM mass.


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