Assessment of Human Exposure to Ambient Particulate Matter.

Recent epidemiological studies have consistently shown that the acute mortality effects of high concentrations of ambient particulate matter (PM), documented in historic air pollution episodes, may also be occurring at the low to moderate concentrations of ambient PM found in modern urban areas. In London in December 1952, the unexpected deaths due to PM exposure could be identi-fied and counted as integers by the coroners. In modern times, the PM-related deaths cannot be as readily identi-fied, and they can only be inferred as fractional average daily increases in mortality rates using sophisticated sta-tistical filtering and analyses of the air quality and mor-tality data. The causality of the relationship between exposure to ambient PM and acute mortality at these lower modern PM concentrations has been questioned because of a perception that there is little significant correlation in time between the ambient PM concentrations and measured personal exposure to PM from all sources (am-bient PM plus indoor-generated PM). This article shows that the critical factor supporting the plausibility of a linear PM mortality relationship is the expected high correlation in time of people's exposure to PM of ambient origin with measured ambient PM concen-trations, as used in the epidemiological time series studies. The presence of indoor and personal sources of PM masks this underlying relationship, leading to confusion in the scientific literature about the strong underlying temporal relationship between personal exposure to PM of ambient origin and ambient PM concentration. The authors show that the sources of PM of non-ambient origin operate inde-pendently of the ambient PM concentrations, so that the mortality effect of non-ambient PM, if any, must be inde-pendent of the effects of the ambient PM exposures


Mage, D T., W E. Wilson, V. Hasselblad, AND L D. Grant. Assessment of Human Exposure to Ambient Particulate Matter. JOURNAL OF THE AIR & WASTE MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION 49(11):1280-1291, (1999).