Assessing Human Exposures to Particulate and Gaseous Air Pollutants

EPA Grant Number: R827353C001
Subproject: this is subproject number 001 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R827353
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: EPA Harvard Center for Ambient Particle Health Effects
Center Director: Koutrakis, Petros
Title: Assessing Human Exposures to Particulate and Gaseous Air Pollutants
Investigators: Koutrakis, Petros
Current Investigators: Koutrakis, Petros , Brown, Kathleen Ward , Sarnat, Jeremy , Suh, Helen H.
Institution: Harvard University
EPA Project Officer: Chung, Serena
Project Period: June 1, 1999 through May 31, 2005 (Extended to May 31, 2006)
Project Amount: Refer to main center abstract for funding details.
RFA: Airborne Particulate Matter (PM) Centers (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Air Quality and Air Toxics , Particulate Matter , Air


The overall objective of this project is to improve our ability to characterize air pollutant exposures for health effects studies. This project is one of three research studies proposed under Theme I: Assessing Particle Exposures for Health Effects Studies that were based on personal, indoor, and outdoor particulate and gas concentrations that were measured as part of our previous or current exposure studies. This project was intended to address Particulate Matter Research Topics 1, 5, and 7 identified by the National Research Council (NRC)-Outdoor Measures vs. Actual Exposures for Particles, Particle Components, and Gaseous Co-Pollutants.

This project was intended to examine the ability of outdoor particulate concentrations to estimate exposures for a community. Findings from recent studies conducted by a variety of researchers have found relatively strong associations between personal PM2.5, and to a lesser degree PM10, exposures and ambient concentrations over time. Although the strength of these associations varied substantially by individual, results from one of our recent studies of individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (Rojas-Bracho, et al., 2000) indicated that for certain individuals ambient PM2.5 concentrations are an appropriate surrogate for personal PM2.5 exposures. This observed inter-personal variability was attributed to variability in indoor PM2.5 concentrations, as the association between personal PM2.5 exposures and outdoor concentrations was strongly correlated with corresponding associations between outdoor and indoor PM2.5 concentrations. This finding suggested that indoor sources and indoor ventilation characteristics are important determinants of personal PM2.5 exposures and their relationship to outdoor levels.


The focus of Theme I is: to assess human exposures to particles and gases in order to better understand their health effects. As such, research conducted as part of Theme I has four main objectives: (1) to determine the contribution of particles of indoor and outdoor origin to personal and indoor levels, (2) to characterize the inter- and intra-variability in personal particulate and gaseous exposures for particles of indoor and outdoor origin, (3) to quantify the effect of measurement error for fine particles and their co-pollutants (coarse mass and the criteria gases) on risk estimates from epidemiological studies, and (4) to examine the association between various exposure measures and heart function for sensitive individuals. To accomplish these objectives, Theme I includes three projects, each of which is based on data from previous and ongoing exposure studies conducted in several U.S. cities (Boston, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Los Angeles). Project Ia will use data collected in these studies to characterize the contribution of indoor and outdoor particles to both personal exposures and indoor particulate concentrations. As part of this effort, the central tendency and variability in the contribution of outdoor and indoor particles to personal exposures and indoor concentrations will be characterized. Factors affecting this variability will also be determined, as will factors affecting the relationship between outdoor concentrations and personal exposures to outdoor and indoor particles. Project Ib will also use exposure data collected in these and other studies to characterize four sources of exposure error: instrument error, spatial variation in ambient PM2.5, indoor/outdoor concentration differences, and personal factors. Once characterized, the city- and population-specific effects of exposure error on risk estimates will be determined, and the impact of differential exposure error for PM2.5 and its co-pollutants (coarse mass and the criteria gases) on risk estimates will be quantified. Project Ic will leverage exposure measurements made in on-going projects to examine the association between heart function (heart rate and heart rate variability) and various exposure measures for sensitive, free-living individuals. This association will be examined using at least four exposure measures: (1) outdoor PM2.5 concentrations, (2) indoor source-related indoor PM2.5 concentrations, (3) outdoor source-related personal PM2.5 exposures, and (4) personal PM2.5 exposures.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this subproject: View all 6 publications for this subprojectView all 200 publications for this center

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this subproject: View all 6 journal articles for this subprojectView all 197 journal articles for this center

Supplemental Keywords:

particulate matter, PM2.5, PM10, air pollutants, particulates, health effects, exposure, ambient particles, susceptibility, metals, public policy, biology, engineering, epidemiology, toxicology, environmental chemistry, monitoring., RFA, Health, Scientific Discipline, Air, Air Pollution Monitoring, particulate matter, Toxicology, air toxics, Environmental Chemistry, Epidemiology, Risk Assessments, Environmental Microbiology, Environmental Monitoring, indoor air, Atmospheric Sciences, Molecular Biology/Genetics, Biology, chemical exposure, ambient air quality, particulates, monitoring, particle size, risk assessment, sensitive populations, ambient air monitoring, cardiopulmonary responses, indoor exposure, human health effects, air pollutants, exposure and effects, lung, COPD, developmental effects, epidemelogy, respiratory disease, pulmonary disease, ambient measurement methods, ambient air, exposure, air pollution, particle exposure, children, ambient monitoring, ambient particle health effects, chronic effects, particulate exposure, inhalation, pulmonary, human exposure, inhalation toxicology, inhaled, PM, indoor air quality, cardiopulmonary, human health, genetic susceptibility, dosimetry, cardiovascular disease, human health risk, respiratory, measurement methods, exposure assessment

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1999 Progress Report
  • 2000 Progress Report
  • 2001 Progress Report
  • 2002 Progress Report
  • 2003 Progress Report
  • 2004 Progress Report
  • Final Report

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R827353    EPA Harvard Center for Ambient Particle Health Effects

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R827353C001 Assessing Human Exposures to Particulate and Gaseous Air Pollutants
    R827353C002 Quantifying Exposure Error and its Effect on Epidemiological Studies
    R827353C003 St. Louis Bus, Steubenville and Atlanta Studies
    R827353C004 Examining Conditions That Predispose Towards Acute Adverse Effects of Particulate Exposures
    R827353C005 Assessing Life-Shortening Associated with Exposure to Particulate Matter
    R827353C006 Investigating Chronic Effects of Exposure to Particulate Matter
    R827353C007 Determining the Effects of Particle Characteristics on Respiratory Health of Children
    R827353C008 Differentiating the Roles of Particle Size, Particle Composition, and Gaseous Co-Pollutants on Cardiac Ischemia
    R827353C009 Assessing Deposition of Ambient Particles in the Lung
    R827353C010 Relating Changes in Blood Viscosity, Other Clotting Parameters, Heart Rate, and Heart Rate Variability to Particulate and Criteria Gas Exposures
    R827353C011 Studies of Oxidant Mechanisms
    R827353C012 Modeling Relationships Between Mobile Source Particle Emissions and Population Exposures
    R827353C013 Toxicological Evaluation of Realistic Emissions of Source Aerosols (TERESA) Study
    R827353C014 Identifying the Physical and Chemical Properties of Particulate Matter Responsible for the Observed Adverse Health Effects
    R827353C015 Research Coordination Core
    R827353C016 Analytical and Facilities Core
    R827353C017 Technology Development and Transfer Core