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Concept: Dust


Active travel (cycling, walking) is beneficial for the health due to increased physical activity (PA). However, active travel may increase the intake of air pollution, leading to negative health consequences. We examined the risk-benefit balance between active travel related PA and exposure to air pollution across a range of air pollution and PA scenarios. The health effects of active travel and air pollution were estimated through changes in all-cause mortality for different levels of active travel and air pollution. Air pollution exposure was estimated through changes in background concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), ranging from 5 to 200μg/m3. For active travel exposure, we estimated cycling and walking from 0 up to 16h per day, respectively. These refer to long-term average levels of active travel and PM2.5 exposure. For the global average urban background PM2.5 concentration (22μg/m3) benefits of PA by far outweigh risks from air pollution even under the most extreme levels of active travel. In areas with PM2.5 concentrations of 100μg/m3, harms would exceed benefits after 1h 30min of cycling per day or more than 10h of walking per day. If the counterfactual was driving, rather than staying at home, the benefits of PA would exceed harms from air pollution up to 3h 30min of cycling per day. The results were sensitive to dose-response function (DRF) assumptions for PM2.5 and PA. PA benefits of active travel outweighed the harm caused by air pollution in all but the most extreme air pollution concentrations.

Concepts: Pollution, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate, Visibility, Smog, Air pollution, Dust, Scrubber


Preterm birth (PTB) rates (11.4% in 2013) in the United States (US) remain high and are a substantial cause of morbidity. Studies of prenatal exposure have associated particulate matter <2.5microns in diameter (PM2.5) and other ambient air pollutants with adverse birth outcomes, yet, to our knowledge, burden and costs of PM 2.5-attributable PTB have not been estimated in the US.

Concepts: Childbirth, United States, Particulate, Smog, Air pollution, Volcano, Dust, Humid subtropical climate


Indoor dust is a reservoir for commercial consumer product chemicals, including many compounds with known or suspected health effects. However, most dust exposure studies measure few chemicals in small samples. We systematically searched the U.S. indoor dust literature on phthalates, replacement flame retardants (RFRs), perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), synthetic fragrances, and environmental phenols and estimated pooled geometric means (GMs) and 95% confidence intervals for 45 chemicals measured in ≥3 data sets. In order to rank and contextualize these results, we used the pooled GMs to calculate residential intake from dust ingestion, inhalation, and dermal uptake from air, and then identified hazard traits from the Safer Consumer Products Candidate Chemical List. Our results indicate that U.S. indoor dust consistently contains chemicals from multiple classes. Phthalates occurred in the highest concentrations, followed by phenols, RFRs, fragrance, and PFASs. Several phthalates and RFRs had the highest residential intakes. We also found that many chemicals in dust share hazard traits such as reproductive and endocrine toxicity. We offer recommendations to maximize comparability of studies and advance indoor exposure science. This information is critical in shaping future exposure and health studies, especially related to cumulative exposures, and in providing evidence for intervention development and public policy.

Concepts: Mathematics, Measurement, Chemistry, Fire retardant, Chemical compound, Dust, Intake, Aroma compound


Reduction of preterm births (<37 completed weeks of gestation) would substantially reduce neonatal and infant mortality, and deleterious health effects in survivors. Maternal fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exposure has been identified as a possible risk factor contributing to preterm birth. The aim of this study was to produce the first estimates of ambient PM2.5-associated preterm births for 183 individual countries and globally. To do this, national, population-weighted, annual average ambient PM2.5 concentration, preterm birth rate and number of livebirths were combined to calculate the number of PM2.5-associated preterm births in 2010 for 183 countries. Uncertainty was quantified using Monte-Carlo simulations, and analyses were undertaken to investigate the sensitivity of PM2.5-associated preterm birth estimates to assumptions about the shape of the concentration-response function at low and high PM2.5 exposures, inclusion of provider-initiated preterm births, and exposure to indoor air pollution. Globally, in 2010, the number of PM2.5-associated preterm births was estimated as 2.7 million (1.8-3.5 million, 18% (12-24%) of total preterm births globally) with a low concentration cut-off (LCC) set at 10μgm(-3), and 3.4 million (2.4-4.2 million, 23% (16-28%)) with a LCC of 4.3μgm(-3). South and East Asia, North Africa/Middle East and West sub-Saharan Africa had the largest contribution to the global total, and the largest percentage of preterm births associated with PM2.5. Sensitivity analyses showed that PM2.5-associated preterm birth estimates were 24% lower when provider-initiated preterm births were excluded, 38-51% lower when risk was confined to the PM2.5 exposure range in the studies used to derive the effect estimate, and 56% lower when mothers who live in households that cook with solid fuels (and whose personal PM2.5 exposure is likely dominated by indoor air pollution) were excluded. The concentration-response function applied here derives from a meta-analysis of studies, most of which were conducted in the US and Europe, and its application to the areas of the world where we estimate the greatest effects on preterm births remains uncertain. Nevertheless, the substantial percentage of preterm births estimated to be associated with anthropogenic PM2.5 (18% (13%-24%) of total preterm births globally) indicates that reduction of maternal PM2.5 exposure through emission reduction strategies should be considered alongside mitigation of other risk factors associated with preterm births.

Concepts: Childbirth, Infant, Mathematics, Risk, Particulate, Smog, Air pollution, Dust


Mammographic breast density is a well-established strong risk factor for breast cancer. The environmental contributors to geographic variation in breast density in urban and rural areas are poorly understood. We examined the association between breast density and exposure to ambient air pollutants (particulate matter <2.5 μm in diameter (PM2.5) and ozone (O3)) in a large population-based screening registry.

Concepts: Cancer, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate, Smog, Environmentalism, Air pollution, Dust, Scrubber


Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) has been linked to cardiovascular disease, possibly via accelerated atherosclerosis. We examined associations between the progression of the intima-medial thickness (IMT) of the common carotid artery, as an indicator of atherosclerosis, and long-term PM2.5 concentrations in participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).

Concepts: Common carotid artery, Brachiocephalic artery, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate, Smog, Air pollution, Dust, Scrubber


Exposure to dogs in early infancy has been shown to reduce the risk of childhood allergic disease development, and dog ownership is associated with a distinct house dust microbial exposure. Here, we demonstrate, using murine models, that exposure of mice to dog-associated house dust protects against ovalbumin or cockroach allergen-mediated airway pathology. Protected animals exhibited significant reduction in the total number of airway T cells, down-regulation of Th2-related airway responses, as well as mucin secretion. Following dog-associated dust exposure, the cecal microbiome of protected animals was extensively restructured with significant enrichment of, amongst others, Lactobacillus johnsonii. Supplementation of wild-type animals with L. johnsonii protected them against both airway allergen challenge or infection with respiratory syncytial virus. L. johnsonii-mediated protection was associated with significant reductions in the total number and proportion of activated CD11c(+)/CD11b(+) and CD11c(+)/CD8(+) cells, as well as significantly reduced airway Th2 cytokine expression. Our results reveal that exposure to dog-associated household dust results in protection against airway allergen challenge and a distinct gastrointestinal microbiome composition. Moreover, the study identifies L. johnsonii as a pivotal species within the gastrointestinal tract capable of influencing adaptive immunity at remote mucosal surfaces in a manner that is protective against a variety of respiratory insults.

Concepts: Immune system, Bacteria, Asthma, Microbiology, Immunology, Antigen, Protection, Dust


Outdoor fine particulate matter (PM2.5) has been identified as a global health threat, but the number of large U.S. prospective cohort studies with individual participant data remains limited, especially at lower recent exposures.

Concepts: Epidemiology, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate, Smog, Air pollution, Volcano, Dust, Scrubber


China has recently made available hourly air pollution data from over 1500 sites, including airborne particulate matter (PM), SO2, NO2, and O3. We apply Kriging interpolation to four months of data to derive pollution maps for eastern China. Consistent with prior findings, the greatest pollution occurs in the east, but significant levels are widespread across northern and central China and are not limited to major cities or geologic basins. Sources of pollution are widespread, but are particularly intense in a northeast corridor that extends from near Shanghai to north of Beijing. During our analysis period, 92% of the population of China experienced >120 hours of unhealthy air (US EPA standard), and 38% experienced average concentrations that were unhealthy. China’s population-weighted average exposure to PM2.5 was 52 μg/m3. The observed air pollution is calculated to contribute to 1.6 million deaths/year in China [0.7-2.2 million deaths/year at 95% confidence], roughly 17% of all deaths in China.

Concepts: United States Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate, Smog, Sulfuric acid, Air pollution, Volcano, Dust, Shanghai


Assessment of the global burden of disease is based on epidemiological cohort studies that connect premature mortality to a wide range of causes, including the long-term health impacts of ozone and fine particulate matter with a diameter smaller than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5). It has proved difficult to quantify premature mortality related to air pollution, notably in regions where air quality is not monitored, and also because the toxicity of particles from various sources may vary. Here we use a global atmospheric chemistry model to investigate the link between premature mortality and seven emission source categories in urban and rural environments. In accord with the global burden of disease for 2010 (ref. 5), we calculate that outdoor air pollution, mostly by PM2.5, leads to 3.3 (95 per cent confidence interval 1.61-4.81) million premature deaths per year worldwide, predominantly in Asia. We primarily assume that all particles are equally toxic, but also include a sensitivity study that accounts for differential toxicity. We find that emissions from residential energy use such as heating and cooking, prevalent in India and China, have the largest impact on premature mortality globally, being even more dominant if carbonaceous particles are assumed to be most toxic. Whereas in much of the USA and in a few other countries emissions from traffic and power generation are important, in eastern USA, Europe, Russia and East Asia agricultural emissions make the largest relative contribution to PM2.5, with the estimate of overall health impact depending on assumptions regarding particle toxicity. Model projections based on a business-as-usual emission scenario indicate that the contribution of outdoor air pollution to premature mortality could double by 2050.

Concepts: Epidemiology, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate, Smog, Air pollution, Dust, Air Quality Index, Scrubber