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J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2009 Mar;19(3):235-47. doi: 10.1038/jes.2008.65. Epub 2008 Oct 29.

Semi-continuous speciation analyses for ambient air particulate matter: an urgent need for health effects studies.

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New York University School of Medicine, Tuxedo, New York 10987, USA.


One of the most urgent needs for future progress in reducing the substantial impacts of ambient air particulate matter (PM) on human health is to determine which of its components are having the greatest effects. The EPA's Speciation Trends Network (STN) has been operating since 2000. It generates 24-h average fine PM component concentrations for sulfate and nitrate ions, elemental and organic carbon (EC/OC), and many elements on an every third or sixth day basis for one or a few sites in most large US cities. To date, a small number of research studies, summarized in this paper, have used available STN and other supplemental data to identify and quantify the influences of specific components or source-related mixtures on measures of health-related impacts. These pioneering studies have demonstrated the potential utility of using such data in analyses that can provide a sound basis for guiding future research and control activities on those PM sources that have the greatest public health relevance. Unfortunately, the STN data collection methods used are expensive, and data have therefore been too sparse for studies of short-term health effects, where semi-continuous data, or at least daily 24-h concentration data are needed, as well as for regional concentration distributions that are needed for definitive analyses. Furthermore, because of cost considerations, there is virtually no prospect of collecting the data needed by the health researchers for more definitive analyses as long as there is continued reliance on current FRM sampling and analysis methodologies. At the second EPA-HEI Workshop on "Air Quality and Health Researchers Working Together" in RTP, NC on 16 and 17 April 2008, many participants concluded that it was both desirable, and possibly technically and economically feasible, to re-equip the STN sites with an automated system of semi-continuous monitors for sulfate, nitrate, EC, OC, and semi-continuous multistage PM samplers for non-volatile elements, providing continuous records of PM components with an averaging time of approximately 6 h for both thoracic coarse mode PM, fine PM, and perhaps ultrafine PM as well. The availability of such data would greatly accelerate the accumulation of knowledge on PM component exposure-response relationships that would provide a sound basis more targeted air quality standards and pollution control measures.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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