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Environ Health Perspect. 2018 Feb 15;126(2):027008. doi: 10.1289/EHP2054.

Ultrafine and Fine Particle Number and Surface Area Concentrations and Daily Cause-Specific Mortality in the Ruhr Area, Germany, 2009-2014.

Author information

Institute of Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, Center for Health and Society, Heinrich-Heine-University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany.
Institute of Energy and Environmental Technology e.V., Duisburg, Germany.
Federal Institute of Occupational Safety and Health , Dortmund, Germany.
Center for Nanointegration Duisburg-Essen (CENIDE), University Duisburg-Essen , Duisburg and Essen, Germany.
Department of Epidemiology, Lazio Region Health Service , Rome, Italy.
Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institute , Stockholm, Sweden.



Although epidemiologic studies have shown associations between particle mass and daily mortality, evidence on other particle metrics is weak.


We investigated associations of size-specific particle number concentration (PNC) and lung-deposited particle surface area concentration (PSC) with cause-specific daily mortality in contrast to PM10.


We used time-series data (March 2009-December 2014) on daily natural, cardiovascular, and respiratory mortality (NM, CVM, RM) of three adjacent cities in the Ruhr Area, Germany. Size-specific PNC (electric mobility diameter of 13.3-750 nm), PSC, and PM10 were measured at an urban background monitoring site. In single- and multipollutant Poisson regression models, we estimated percentage change (95% confidence interval) [% (95% CI)] in mortality per interquartile range (IQR) in exposure at single-day (0-7) and aggregated lags (0-1, 2-3, 4-7), accounting for time trend, temperature, humidity, day of week, holidays, period of seasonal population decrease, and influenza.


PNC100-750 and PSC were highly correlated and had similar immediate (lag0-1) and delayed (lag4-7) associations with NM and CVM, for example, 1.12% (95% CI: 0.09, 2.33) and 1.56% (95% CI: 0.22, 2.92) higher NM with IQR increases in PNC100-750 at lag0-1 and lag4-7, respectfully, which were slightly stronger then associations with IQR increases in PM10. Positive associations between PNC and NM were strongest for accumulation mode particles (PNC 100-500 nm), and for larger UFPs (PNC 50-100 nm). Associations between NM and PNC<100 changed little after adjustment for O3 or PM10, but were more sensitive to adjustment for NO2.


Size-specific PNC (50-500 nm) and lung-deposited PSC were associated with natural and cardiovascular mortality in the Ruhr Area. Although associations were similar to those estimated for an IQR increase in PM10, particle number size distributions can be linked to emission sources, and thus may be more informative for potential public health interventions. Moreover, PSC could be used as an alternative metric that integrates particle size distribution as well as deposition efficiency.

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