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The risks of acute exposure to black carbon in Southern Europe: results from the MED-PARTICLES project
  1. Bart Ostro1,2,
  2. Aurelio Tobias3,
  3. Angeliki Karanasiou3,
  4. Evangelia Samoli4,
  5. Xavier Querol3,
  6. Sophia Rodopoulou4,
  7. Xavier Basagaña2,5,
  8. Kostas Eleftheriadis6,
  9. Evangelia Diapouli6,
  10. Stergios Vratolis6,
  11. Benedicte Jacquemin2,7,
  12. Klea Katsouyanni4,8,
  13. Jordi Sunyer2,
  14. Francesco Forastiere9,
  15. Massimo Stafoggia9
  16. and the MED-PARTICLES Study Group
  1. 1Air Pollution Epidemiology Section, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, CAL EPA, Oakland, California, USA
  2. 2Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology, Barcelona Biomedical Research Park, Barcelona, Spain
  3. 3Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA), Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), Barcelona, Spain
  4. 4Department of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Medical Statistics, Medical School, University of Athens, Athens, Greece
  5. 5Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF), Barcelona, Spain
  6. 6ERL, Institute of Nuclear and Radiological Science & Technology, Energy & Safety N.C.S.R. Demokritos, Athens, Greece
  7. 7Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health, INSERM & UMRS, Villejuif, France
  8. 8Department of Primary Care and Public Health Sciences, King's College, London, UK
  9. 9Department of Epidemiology Lazio Region, Rome, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Dr Bart Ostro, Air Pollution Epidemiology Section, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), California EPA, Oakland, CA 94611, USA; Bart.ostro{at}


Objectives While several studies have reported associations of daily exposures to PM2.5 (particles less than 2.5 µm) with mortality, few studies have examined the impact of its constituents such as black carbon (BC), which is also a significant contributor to global climate change.

Methods We assessed the association between daily concentrations of BC and total, cardiovascular and respiratory mortality in two southern Mediterranean cities. Daily averages of BC were collected for 2 years in Barcelona, Spain and Athens, Greece. We used case-crossover analysis and examined single and cumulative lags up to 3 days.

Results We observed associations between BC and all mortality measures. For a 3-day moving average, cardiovascular mortality increased by 4.5% (95% CI 0.7 to 8.5) and 2.0% (95% CI 0 to 4.0) for an interquartile change in BC in Athens and Barcelona, respectively. Considerably higher effects for respiratory mortality and for those above age 65 were observed. In addition, BC exhibited much greater toxicity per microgram than generic PM2.5.

Conclusions Our findings suggest that BC, derived in western industrialised nations primarily from diesel engines and biomass burning, poses a significant burden to public health, particularly in European cities with high-traffic density.

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