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Airborne Particulate Matter, Health Effects and the Center’s Research:

The plan for the Johns Hopkins Particulate Matter (PM) Research Center is grounded in the research portfolio of the National Research Council’s Committee on Research Priorities for Airborne Particulate Matter of 1998 and updated in the Committee’s fourth and last report (NRC 2004). The Committee created a 13-year research portfolio based around 10 topics which covered critical uncertainties in the evidence base, specifically highlighting the need for further research directed at:

  • Characteristics of particles (chemical and physical) associated with greater or lesser toxicity
  • Mechanisms of injury and of susceptibility 
  • Combined effects of particles and gases
  • Elaboration of the emissions inventory
  • Further development of air quality models
  • New integrative and multidisciplinary research approaches. 

The committee viewed characteristics of particles (chemical and physical), associated with greater or lesser toxicity, as pivotal in advancing understanding of PM and risk to health. Understanding PM characteristics may help in possibly evolving from National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) based on mass concentration alone, to approaches that target those particles and sources contributing to the burden of PM-associated morbidity and mortality.  Recognizing the current critical relevance of new information on PM characteristics and health risks, the Johns Hopkins PM Research Center focuses on Topic 5 of the portfolio, Assessing Hazardous Particulate Matter Components.

Additional research of the Center will include:

  • Epidemiological analyses that will explore combined effects of PM and other pollutants
  • Bioassays that will provide insights into mechanisms of injury; both the epidemiological and bioassays will consider susceptible populations
  • Exposure assessment activities that will provide information relevant to the topic of exposures of susceptible subpopulations to toxic PM components and also to the topics concerned with emissions sources and air quality models.
  • New methods for statistical analysis

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