Author(s): Grahame TJ, Klemm R, Schlesinger RB
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Abstract In 2012, the WHO classified diesel emissions as carcinogenic, and its European branch suggested creating a public health standard for airborne black carbon (BC). In 2011, EU researchers found that life expectancy could be extended four to nine times by reducing a unit of BC, vs reducing a unit of PM2.5. Only recently could such determinations be made. Steady improvements in research methodologies now enable such judgments. In this Critical Review, we survey epidemiological and toxicological literature regarding carbonaceous combustion emissions, as research methodologies improved over time. Initially, we focus on studies of BC, diesel, and traffic emissions in the Western countries (where daily urban BC emissions are mainly from diesels). We examine effects of other carbonaceous emissions, e.g., residential burning of biomass and coal without controls, mainly in developing countries. Throughout the 1990s, air pollution epidemiology studies rarely included species not routinely monitored. As additional PM2.5. chemical species, including carbonaceous species, became more widely available after 1999, they were gradually included in epidemiological studies. Pollutant species concentrations which more accurately reflected subject exposure also improved models. Natural "interventions"--reductions in emissions concurrent with fuel changes or increased combustion efficiency; introduction of ventilation in highway tunnels; implementation of electronic toll payment systems--demonstrated health benefits of reducing specific carbon emissions. Toxicology studies provided plausible biological mechanisms by which different PM species, e.g, carbonaceous species, may cause harm, aiding interpretation of epidemiological studies. Our review finds that BC from various sources appears to be causally involved in all-cause, lung cancer and cardiovascular mortality, morbidity, and perhaps adverse birth and nervous system effects. We recommend that the US. EPA rubric for judging possible causality of PM25. mass concentrations, be used to assess which PM2.5. species are most harmful to public health. IMPLICATIONS: Black carbon (BC) and correlated co-emissions appear causally related with all-cause, cardiovascular, and lung cancer mortality, and perhaps with adverse birth outcomes and central nervous system effects. Such findings are recent, since widespread monitoring for BC is also recent. Helpful epidemiological advances (using many health relevant PM2.5 species in models; using better measurements of subject exposure) have also occurred. "Natural intervention" studies also demonstrate harm from partly combusted carbonaceous emissions. Toxicology studies consistently find biological mechanisms explaining how such emissions can cause these adverse outcomes. A consistent mechanism for judging causality for different PM2.5 species is suggested.
This article was published in J Air Waste Manag Assoc
and referenced in Journal of Environmental Analytical Chemistry