Health Outcomes of Exposure to Biological and Chemical Components of Inhalable and Respirable Particulate Matter

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Particulate matter (PM) is a key indicator of air pollution and a significant risk factor for adverse health outcomes in humans. PM is not a self-contained pollutant but a mixture of different compounds including chemical and biological fractions. While several reviews have focused on the chemical components of PM and associated health effects, there is a dearth of review studies that holistically examine the role of biological and chemical components of inhalable and respirable PM in disease causation. A literature search using various search engines and (or) keywords was done. Articles selected for review were chosen following predefined criteria, to extract and analyze data. The results show that the biological and chemical components of inhalable and respirable PM play a significant role in the burden of health effects attributed to PM. These health outcomes include low birth weight, emergency room visit, hospital admission, respiratory and pulmonary diseases, cardiovascular disease, cancer, non-communicable diseases, and premature death, among others. This review justifies the importance of each or synergistic effects of the biological and chemical constituents of PM on health. It also provides information that informs policy on the establishment of exposure limits for PM composition metrics rather than the existing exposure limits of the total mass of PM. This will allow for more effective management strategies for improving outdoor air quality.


Original languageEnglish
Article number592
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2016


    Research areas

  • particulate matter, biological composition, chemical composition, health outcomes, disease burden

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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