The Tiniest Particles: An Invisible Hazard
In the last decade a new line of research has been looking into the possibility that the tiniest of ambient particulate matter, ultrafine particles, might pose an additional health risk to people who are exposed. Ultrafine levels are elevated near major roadways and highways as well as other locations. People living near highways who experience these higher exposures have increased risk of a number of adverse health outcomes. Very new research is consistent with ultrafines being associated with these health outcomes. Ultrafines are surprising in many ways. Because they are so small they often behave more like gasses than particles. One disturbing and fascinating finding is that they easily cross biological barriers. In fact, they can travel down the olfactory nerve at the back of the nose directly into the brain. Because of the local nature of ultrafine exposures (as opposed to PM2.5 which is more regional) community-university research partnerships have been part of the effort to define and address the hazard.
KeywordsUltrafine particles Near roadway Community participatory research Brain Smallest PM
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