Fine Particles Are More Strongly Associated Than Coarse Particles With Acute Respiratory Health Effects in Schoolchildren

Epidemiology. 2000 Jan;11(1):6-10. doi: 10.1097/00001648-200001000-00004.


Numerous studies have reported associations between airborne particles and a range of respiratory outcomes from symptoms to mortality. Current attention has been focused on the characteristics of these particles responsible for the adverse health effects. We have reanalyzed three recent longitudinal diary studies to examine the relative contributions of fine and coarse particles on respiratory symptoms and peak expiratory flow in schoolchildren. In the Harvard Six Cities Diary Study, lower respiratory symptoms in a two-pollutant model were associated with an interquartile range increment in fine particles [(for 15 microg/m3 particulate matter (PM) <2.5 microm in aerodynamic diameter (PM2.5), odds ratio = 1.29, 95% confidence limits (CL) = 1.06, 1.57] but not coarse particles (for 8 microg/m3 PM2.5-10, odds ratio = 1.05, 95% CL = 0.90, 1.23). In Uniontown, PA, we found that peak flow was associated with fine particles (for 15 microg/m3 PM2.1, peak flow = -0.91 liters/minute, 95% CL = -0.14, -1.68), especially fine sulfate particles, but not with coarse particles (for 15 microg/m3 PM2.1-10, +1.04 liters/minute, 95% CL = -1.32, +3.40). We found similar results for an equivalent children's cohort in State College, PA. We conclude that fine particles, especially fine sulfate particles, have much stronger acute respiratory effects than coarse particles.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollutants / chemistry
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Peak Expiratory Flow Rate
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / etiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / physiopathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urban Population


  • Air Pollutants