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Airborne Particulate Matter: Human Exposure and Health Effects

Thompson, Jonathan, E., PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: May 2018 - Volume 60 - Issue 5 - p 392–423
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001277

Objective: Exposure to airborne particulate matter (PM) is estimated to cause millions of premature deaths annually. This work conveys known routes of exposure to PM and resultant health effects.

Methods: A review of available literature.

Results: Estimates for daily PM exposure are provided. Known mechanisms by which insoluble particles are transported and removed from the body are discussed. Biological effects of PM, including immune response, cytotoxicity, and mutagenicity, are reported. Epidemiological studies that outline the systemic health effects of PM are presented.

Conclusion: While the integrated, per capita, exposure of PM for a large fraction of the first-world may be less than 1 mg per day, links between several syndromes, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, loss of cognitive function, anxiety, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hypertension, stroke, and PM exposure have been suggested. This article reviews and summarizes such links reported in the literature.

Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas.

Address correspondence to: Jonathan E. Thompson, PhD, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409-1061 (

No sources of funding have been provided to prepare this specific work. The author's research is currently not funded by any agency of a government or any private company.

Author Thompson has no relationships/conditions/circumstances that present potential conflict of interest.

The JOEM editorial board and planners have no financial interest related to this research.

Copyright © 2018 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine