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Concept: Visibility


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


Airborne compounds in the indoor environment arise from a wide variety of sources such as environmental tobacco smoke, heating and cooking, construction materials as well as outdoor sources. To understand the contribution of scented candles to the indoor load of airborne substances and particulate matter, candle emission testing was undertaken in environmentally controlled small and large emission chambers. Candle emission rates, calculated on the basis of measured chamber concentrations of volatile and semi volatile organic compounds (VOC, SVOC) and particulate matter (PM), were used to predict their respective indoor air concentrations in a standard EU-based dwelling using 2 models: the widely accepted ConsExpo 1-box inhalation model and the recently developed RIFM 2-box indoor air dispersion model. The output from both models has been used to estimate more realistic consumer exposure concentrations of specific chemicals and PM in candle emissions. Potential consumer health risks associated with the candle emissions were characterized by comparing the exposure concentrations with existing indoor or ambient air quality guidelines or, where not existent, to established toxicity thresholds. On the basis of this investigation it was concluded that under normal conditions of use scented candles do not pose known health risks to the consumer.

Concepts: Diesel particulate matter, Chemistry, Particulate, Visibility, National Ambient Air Quality Standards, Volatile organic compound, Smog, Air pollution


Salmonella typhimurium strains TA98 and TA100 were used to assess the mutagenic potential of the aerosol from a commercially available, rechargeable, closed system electronic-cigarette. Results obtained were compared to those for the mainstream smoke from a Kentucky reference (3R4F) cigarette. Two different test matrices were assessed. Aerosol generated from the e-cigarette was trapped on a Cambridge filter pad, eluted in DMSO and compared to cigarette smoke total particulate matter (TPM), which was generated in the same manner for mutagenicity assessment in the Salmonella assay. Fresh e-cigarette and cigarette smoke aerosols were generated on the Vitrocell(®) VC 10 smoking robot and compared using a modified scaled-down 35mm air agar interface (AAI) methodology. E-cigarette aerosol collected matter (ACM) was found to be non-mutagenic in the 85mm plate incorporation Ames assay in strains TA98 and TA100 conducted in accordance with OECD 471, when tested up to 2400μg/plate. Freshly generated e-cigarette aerosol was also found to be negative in both strains after an AAI aerosol exposure, when tested up to a 1L/min dilution for up to 3h. Positive control responses were observed in both strains, using benzo[a]pyrene, 2-nitrofluorene, sodium azide and 2-aminoanthracene in TA98 and TA100 in the presence and absence of metabolic activation respectively. In contrast, cigarette smoke TPM and aerosol from 3R4F reference cigarettes were found to be mutagenic in both tester strains, under comparable test conditions to that of e-cigarette exposure. Limited information exists on the mutagenic activity of captured e-cigarette particulates and whole aerosol AAI approaches. With the lower toxicant burden of e-cigarette aerosols compared to cigarette smoke, it is clear that a more comprehensive Ames package of data should be generated when assessing e-cigarettes, consisting of the standard OECD-five, TA98, TA100, TA1535, TA1537 (or TA97) and E. coli (or TA102). In addition, TA104 which is more sensitive to the carbonyl based compounds found in e-cigarette aerosols under dry-wicking conditions may also prove a useful addition in a testing battery. Regulatory standard product testing approaches as used in this study will become important when determining whether e-cigarette aerosols are in fact less biologically active than cigarette smoke, as this study suggests. Future studies should be supported by in vitro dosimetry approaches to draw more accurate comparisons between cigarette smoke, e-cigarette aerosol exposure and human use.

Concepts: Tobacco, Smoke, Global dimming, Visibility, Smoking, Aerosol, Cigarette, Particulate


Numerous studies on microplastics (MPs; Ø < 5 mm) in the aquatic environment have been published, but knowledge about the occurrence and ecological risks of MPs is limited. This is in part because current data on the distribution of MPs are comparable only to a limited extent, due to the many different methods of investigation. In addition, sample preparation is often difficult such that standard procedures are lacking. The aim of this work was to simplify the preparation of different kinds of MP samples. Our method makes use of the electrostatic behavior of plastic particles to facilitate their separation from sample matter, with up to 99% of the original sample mass removed without any loss of MPs. To determine the efficacy of this approach, four different materials (quartz sand, freshwater suspended particulate matter, freshwater sediment, and beach sand) were spiked with MPs (size: 0.063-5 mm from the seven most common types of plastics, one bioplastic type, polyethylene fibers, and tire wear. A modified electrostatic metal/plastic separator was used to reduce the sample mass and concentrate the plastics based on their physical separation. The recovery achieved with this method was as high as nearly 100% for each type of material. The method was then tested on plastic particles of different shapes and types isolated from the Rhine River. These were successfully electroseparated from the four materials, which demonstrated the utility of this method. Its advantages include the simplified handling and preparation of different field samples as well as a much shorter processing time, because after the last separation step there is hardly any biological material remaining in the sample fraction.

Concepts: Germany, Visibility, Air pollution, River, Particulate, Rhine, Sand, Plastic


The most destructive wildfire experienced in Spain since 2004 occurred close to Valencia in summer 2012. A total of 48.500ha were affected by two wildfires, which were mostly active during 29-30 June. The fresh smoke plume was detected at the Burjassot measurement station simultaneously to a severe dust episode. We propose an empirical method to evaluate the dust and smoke mixing and its impact on the microphysical and optical properties. For this, we combine direct-sun measurements with a Cimel CE-318 sun-photometer with an inversion methodology, and the Mie theory to derive the column-integrated size distribution, single scattering albedo (SSA) and asymmetry parameter (g). The mixing of dust and smoke greatly increased the aerosol load and modified the background aerosol properties. Mineral dust increased the aerosol optical depth (AOD) up to 1, while the smoke plume caused an extreme AOD peak of 8. The size distribution of the mixture was bimodal, with a fine and coarse modes dominated by the smoke particles and mineral dust, respectively. The SSA and g for the dust-smoke mixture show a marked sensitivity on the smoke mixing-ratio, mainly at longer wavelengths. Mineral dust and smoke share a similar SSA at 440nm (~0.90), but with opposite spectral dependency. A small dust contribution to the total AOD substantially affects the SSA of the mixture, and also SSA at 1020nm increases from 0.87 to 0.95. This leads to a different spectral behaviour of SSA that changes from positive (smoke plume) to negative (dust), depending on the dust and smoke mixing-ratio.

Concepts: Visibility, Particulate, Spain, Albedo, Smoke, Scientific method, Scattering, Scattering, absorption and radiative transfer


Chronic absenteeism is associated with poorer academic performance and higher attrition in kindergarten to 12th grade (K-12) schools. In prior research, students who were chronically absent generally had fewer employment opportunities and worse health after graduation. We examined the impact that environmental factors surrounding schools have on chronic absenteeism. We estimated the greenness (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI)) and fine particulate matter air pollution (PM2.5) within 250 m and 1000 m respectively of each public school in Massachusetts during the 2012-2013 academic year using satellite-based data. We modeled chronic absenteeism rates in the same year as a function of PM2.5 and NDVI, controlling for race and household income. Among the 1772 public schools in Massachusetts, a 0.15 increase in NDVI during the academic year was associated with a 2.6% (p value < 0.0001) reduction in chronic absenteeism rates, and a 1 μg/m³ increase in PM2.5 during the academic year was associated with a 1.58% (p value < 0.0001) increase in chronic absenteeism rates. Based on these percentage changes in chronic absenteeism, a 0.15 increase in NDVI and 1 μg/m³ increase in PM2.5 correspond to 25,837 fewer students and 15,852 more students chronically absent each year in Massachusetts respectively. These environmental impacts on absenteeism reinforce the need to protect green spaces and reduce air pollution around schools.

Concepts: Visibility, Kindergarten, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Dust, Smog, High school, Air pollution, Particulate


We performed this meta-analysis to estimate the associations of maternal exposure to PM2.5 and its chemical constituents with birth weight and to explore the sources of heterogeneity in regard to the findings of these associations. A total of 32 studies were identified by searching the MEDLINE, PUBMED, Embase, China Biological Medicine and Wanfang electronic databases before April 2015. We estimated the statistically significant associations of reduced birth weight (β = -15.9 g, 95% CI: -26.8, -5.0) and LBW (OR = 1.090, 95% CI: 1.032, 1.150) with PM2.5 exposure (per 10 μg/m(3) increment) during the entire pregnancy. Trimester-specific analyses showed negative associations between birth weight and PM2.5 exposure during the second (β = -12.6 g) and third (β = -10.0 g) trimesters. Other subgroup analyses indicated significantly different pooled-effect estimates of PM2.5 exposure on birth weight in studies with different exposure assessment methods, study designs and study settings. We further observed large differences in the pooled effect estimates of the PM2.5 chemical constituents for birth weight decrease and LBW. We concluded that PM2.5 exposure during pregnancy was associated with lower birth weight, and late pregnancy might be the critical window. Some specific PM2.5 constituents may have larger toxic effects on fetal weight. Exposure assessment methods, study designs and study settings might be important sources of the heterogeneity among the included studies.

Concepts: Visibility, Effect size, Air pollution, Birth mass, Pediatrics, Statistics, Obstetrics, Particulate


BACKGROUND: Several studies have evaluated the association between forest fire smoke and acute exacerbations of respiratory diseases, but few have examined effects on pharmaceutical dispensations. We examine the associations between daily fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and pharmaceutical dispensations for salbutamol in forest fire-affected and non-fire-affected populations in British Columbia (BC), Canada. METHODS: We estimated PM2.5 exposure for populations in administrative health areas using measurements from central monitors. Remote sensing data on fires were used to classify the populations as fire-affected or non-fire-affected, and to identify extreme fire days. Daily counts of salbutamol dispensations between 2003 and 2010 were extracted from the BC PharmaNet database. We estimated rate ratios (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for each population during all fire seasons and on extreme fire days, adjusted for temperature, humidity, and temporal trends. Overall effects for fire-affected and non-fire-affected populations were estimated via meta-regression. RESULTS: Fire season PM2.5 was positively associated with salbutamol dispensations in all fire-affected populations, with a meta-regression RR (95% CI) of 1.06 (1.04-1.07) for a 10 ug/m3 increase. Fire season PM2.5 was not significantly associated with salbutamol dispensations in non-fire-affected populations, with a meta-regression RR of 1.00 (0.98-1.01). On extreme fire days PM2.5 was positively associated with salbutamol dispensations in both population types, with a global meta-regression RR of 1.07 (1.04 - 1.09). CONCLUSIONS: Salbutamol dispensations were clearly associated with fire-related PM2.5. Significant associations were observed in smaller populations (range: 8,000 to 170,000 persons, median: 26,000) than those reported previously, suggesting that salbutamol dispensations may be a valuable outcome for public health surveillance during fire events.

Concepts: Dust, Visibility, Statistics, Smog, Volcano, Epidemiology, Particulate


The health impacts of wildfire smoke, including fine particles (PM2.5), are not well understood and may differ from those of PM2.5 from other sources due to differences in concentrations and chemical composition.

Concepts: Smog, Visibility, Particulate


Indoor smoking in public places and workplaces is forbidden in Italy since 2003, but some health concerns are arising from outdoor secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure for non-smokers. One of the biggest Italian Steel Manufacturer, with several factories in Italy and abroad, the Marcegaglia Group, recently introduced the outdoor smoking ban within the perimeter of all their factories. In order to encourage their smoker employees to quit, the Marcegaglia management decided to set up an educational framework by measuring the PM1, PM2.5 and PM10 emissions from heavy duty trucks and to compare them with the emissions of cigarettes in an indoor controlled environment under the same conditions.

Concepts: Smog, Visibility, Air pollution, Passive smoking, Soot, Particulate, Smoking ban, Smoking