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Assessment of public health risks associated with atmospheric exposure to PM2.5 in Washington, DC, USA.

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Program in Atmospheric Sciences, Howard University, Washington, DC 20059, USA.


In this research, we investigated the public health risks associated with atmospheric exposure to PM2.5 for different subpopulations (black, white, Hispanic, youth, adults, and elderly) in the Washington, DC area. Washington, DC has long been considered a non-healthy place to live according to the American Lung Association due to its poor air quality. This recognition clearly includes the negative PM-related human health effects within the region. Specifically, DC fine particulate matter (PM2.5) [or particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 microm] poses notable health risks to subpopulations having an annual mean value of 16.70 microg/m(3) during the years 1999-2004, exceeding the EPA National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) of 15 microg/m(3). Incessant exposure to significant levels of PM has previously been linked to deleterious health effects, such as heart and lung diseases. The environmental quality and public health statistics of Washington, DC indicate the need for higher-resolution measurements of emissions, both spatially and temporally, and increased analysis of PM-related health effects. Our findings show that there are significant risks of ward-specific pediatric asthma emergency room visits (ERV). Results also illustrate lifetime excess lung cancer risks, exceeding the 1 x 10(-6) threshold for the measured levels of particulate matter and heavy metals (chromium and arsenic) on behalf of numerous subpopulations in the DC selected wards.

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