Respiratory Health Effects of Ultrafine Particles in Children: a Literature Review

  • Amy Heinzerling
  • Joy HsuEmail author
  • Fuyuen Yip


By convention, airborne particles ≤0.1 μm (100 nm) are defined as ultrafine particles (UFPs). UFPs can comprise a large number of particles in particulate matter with aerodynamic diameters ≤2.5 μm (PM2.5). Despite the documented respiratory health effects of PM2.5 and concerns that UFPs might be more toxic than larger particular matter, the effects of UFPs on the respiratory system are not well-described. Even less is known about the respiratory health effects of UFPs among particularly vulnerable populations including children. We reviewed studies examining respiratory health effects of UFPs in children and identified 12 relevant articles. Most (8/12) studies measured UFP exposure using central ambient monitors, and we found substantial heterogeneity in UFP definitions and study designs. No long-term studies were identified. In single pollutant models, UFPs were associated with incident wheezing, current asthma, lower spirometric values, and asthma-related emergency department visits among children. Also, higher exhaled nitric oxide levels were positively correlated with UFP dose among children with asthma or allergy to house dust mites in one study. Multivariate models accounting for potential copollutant confounding yielded no statistically significant results. Although evidence for a relationship between UFPs and children’s respiratory is accumulating, the literature remains inconclusive. Interpretation of existing data is constrained by study heterogeneity, limited accounting for UFP spatial variation, and lack of significant findings from multipollutant models.


Ultrafine Child Particulate matter Respiratory health 



The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Funding Source

No external funding for this manuscript


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland (outside the USA) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MedicineUniversity of California, San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Epidemic Intelligence Service, Office of Public Health Scientific ServicesCenters for Disease Control and PreventionAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Air Pollution and Respiratory Health Branch, Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects, National Center for Environmental HealthCenters for Disease Control and PreventionAtlantaUSA

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