New Methods for Personal Exposure Monitoring for Airborne Particles

Educational Material | IAQ & Ventilation | via: US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

Particulate matter (PM) air pollution ranks as one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide.


Airborne particles have been associated with a range of adverse cardiopulmonary outcomes, which has driven its monitoring at stationary, central sites throughout the world. Individual exposures, however, can differ substantially from concentrations measured at central sites due to spatial variability across a region and sources unique to the individual, such as cooking or cleaning in homes, traffic emissions during commutes, and widely varying sources encountered at work. Personal monitoring with small, battery-powered instruments enables the measurement of an individual’s exposure as they go about their daily activities. Personal monitoring can substantially reduce exposure misclassification and improve the power to detect relationships between particulate pollution and adverse health outcomes. By partitioning exposures to known locations and sources, it may be possible to account for variable toxicity of different sources. This review outlines recent advances in the field of personal exposure assessment for particulate pollution. Advances in battery technology have improved the feasibility of 24-hour monitoring, providing the ability to more completely attribute exposures to microenvironment (e.g., work, home, commute). New metrics to evaluate the relationship between particulate matter and health are also being considered, including particle number concentration, particle composition measures, and particle oxidative load. Such metrics provide opportunities to develop more precise associations between airborne particles and health and may provide opportunities for more effective regulations.