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How important is personal exposure assessment in the epidemiology of air pollutants?
  1. J W Cherrie
  1. University of Aberdeen and Institute of Occupational Medicine
  1. Correspondence to:
    J W Cherrie, University of Aberdeen and Institute of Occupational Medicine, 8 Roxburgh Place, Edinburgh EH8 9SU, UK;

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Modelling of exposure from different microenvironments is being used to explore the importance of different exposure sources and particle sizes

Epidemiological studies have shown that the low levels of air pollution in most industrialised societies are still linked to adverse health outcomes. There is currently considerable research activity to investigate the possible associations between short term fluctuations in airborne particulate matter and morbidity or mortality,1,2 and mortality from long term chronic exposure.3 The World Health Organisation suggests that a 100 μg/m3 increase in the daily average concentration of particulate matter, measured as PM10 (that is, particulate matter with average diameter less than 10 μm), could result in a 7% increase in daily mortality and an 8% increase in daily hospital admissions. The public health consequences of long term exposure to particulate matter may be substantially greater. If the associations are truly causal then they present important challenges for public health protection.

Most of the epidemiological investigations rely on measurements of the pollutant at some central location in the city and then use these data as a surrogate for individual exposure. For example, in a recent study of the daily mortality and hospital admissions in the West Midlands of the UK, the exposure of the 2.3 million people in the study area to particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and other pollutants was defined …

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