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Biological mechanisms of particulate air pollution
Published May 31, 1999 by Technical University of Graz in Austria
Gaseous and particulate anthropogenic components of the atmosphere are discussed to be potentially toxic. Soot particles mainly produced during combustion in heavy duty vehicles represent an important part of atmospheric air pollution. Only particles with a diameter less than 10μ (so-called PM<sub>1</sub><sub>0</sub>) can reach the lung. Therefore, biological relevant mass concentration was restricted to this particles. Epidemiological studies showed a correlation between mass concentration of PM<sub>1</sub><sub>0</sub> particles and health effects. Although the mass concentration of PM<sub>1</sub><sub>0</sub> particles decreased in the last few years, the incidence and prevalence of lung diseases increased. The German Society of Pneumology predict an increase of 25% for lung diseases until the year 2010. For this contradiction no satisfying explanation exists. Recent animal exposure studies have raised the hypothesis that independent on their chemical composition so-called ultrafine particles (size: dp < 100 nm) cause health effects due to their generic nature as a particle and their high number concentration in the atmosphere.
Therefore we present basic mechanisms of health effects caused by soot particles and results of own investigations.