Cell Biology and Toxicology

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 131–147 | Cite as

The effects on health of ambient particles: time for an agonizing reappraisal?

  • Robert L. Maynard
Review Article

John Foster Dulles used the expression ‘agonizing reappraisal’ when reflecting on the foreign policy of the United States in 1953 (Duchin 1992); the phrase might be applied, now, to our knowledge of the effects of ambient particles on health and to policies based thereon. Nobody seriously doubts that ambient concentrations of inhalable particles have effects on health; what is open to doubt is whether these effects can be reliably attributed to specific components of these particles or, even, to inhalable particles within specific size ranges. In addition, the role of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), concentrations of which are often well correlated with those of ambient particulate matter (PM), is due for reconsideration.

Modern research on the effects of air pollutants on health began with the London Smog of 1952: more than 4000 unexpected deaths occurred during and after a week of remarkably high concentrations of coal smoke and sulfur dioxide (SO2) (Ministry of Health 1954). That such...


Air pollution Ambient particles Nitrogen dioxide Particulate matter 



I am grateful to Dr. Morton Lippmann and Professor Roy Harrison for commenting on drafts of this review.

Declaration of interest

The author declares that he has no financial interest in the material reviewed here.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Birmingham UniversityBirminghamUK

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