A review on the human health impact of airborne particulate matter

Environ Int. 2015 Jan:74:136-43. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2014.10.005. Epub 2014 Oct 24.


Particulate matter (PM) is a key indicator of air pollution brought into the air by a variety of natural and human activities. As it can be suspended over long time and travel over long distances in the atmosphere, it can cause a wide range of diseases that lead to a significant reduction of human life. The size of particles has been directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Small particles of concern include "inhalable coarse particles" with a diameter of 2.5 to 10μm and "fine particles" smaller than 2.5μm in diameter. As the source-effect relationship of PM remains unclear, it is not easy to define such effects from individual sources such as long-range transport of pollution. Because of the potent role of PM and its associated pollutants, detailed knowledge of their human health impacts is of primary importance. This paper summarizes the basic evidence on the health effects of particulate matter. An in-depth analysis is provided to address the implications for policy-makers so that more stringent strategies can be implemented to reduce air pollution and its health effects.

Keywords: Human health; PM(10); PM(2.5); Particle size; Particulate matter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / chemistry
  • Air Pollutants / classification
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Air Pollution / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Disease / etiology
  • Humans
  • Particle Size
  • Particulate Matter / chemistry
  • Particulate Matter / classification
  • Particulate Matter / toxicity*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter