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Indoor Air. 2007 Apr;17(2):81-91.

Indoor ultrafine particles and childhood asthma: exploring a potential public health concern.

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Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.


Exposure to airborne particulate matter has a negative effect on respiratory health in both children and adults. The ultrafine fraction of particulate air pollution is of particular interest because of its increased ability to cause oxidative stress and inflammation in the lungs. We reviewed the literature, and to date findings suggest that ultrafine particles (UFPs) may play an important role in triggering asthma symptoms. Furthermore, we believe that indoor UFP exposures may be particularly important because people spend the majority of their time indoors where sources of these contaminants are often present. While several epidemiological studies have examined the respiratory effects of ambient UFP exposures, the relationship between indoor UFP exposures and childhood asthma has yet to be examined in clinical or epidemiological studies. However, the portable instrumentation necessary to conduct such investigations is increasingly available, and we expect that this issue will be addressed in the near future. Therefore, the aim of this article is to provide a general review of UFP toxicity as related to childhood asthma in order to draw attention to a potentially important public health concern.


A number of indoor sources of ultrafine particles (UFPs) have been identified, but the health effects of indoor UFP exposures remain largely unexplored. The potential respiratory effects of such exposures seem most concerning because these particles are known to cause oxidative stress and inflammation in the lungs. Subsequently, indoor UFP exposures may contribute to the exacerbation of asthma symptoms in susceptible individuals. This paper provides a review of UFP toxicity as related to childhood asthma, and to date evidence suggests that further investigation into the respiratory effects of indoor UFP exposures is warranted.

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