Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 333–355 | Cite as

US EPA particulate matter research centers: summary of research results for 2005–2011

  • Patrick N. Breysse
  • Ralph J. Delfino
  • Francesca Dominici
  • Alison C. P. Elder
  • Mark W. Frampton
  • John R. Froines
  • Alison S. Geyh
  • John J. Godleski
  • Diane R. Gold
  • Philip K. Hopke
  • Petros Koutrakis
  • Ning Li
  • Günter Oberdörster
  • Kent E. Pinkerton
  • Jonathan M. Samet
  • Mark J. Utell
  • Anthony S. WexlerEmail author


The US Environmental Protection Agency funded five academic research centers in 2005 to address uncertainties in the health effects caused by airborne particulate matter (PM) as suggested by the 1998 National Research Council report, “Research Priorities for Airborne Particulate Matter.” The centers employed multidisciplinary teams of epidemiologists, toxicologists, atmospheric scientists, engineers, and chemists to approach four key research themes: susceptibility to PM, biological mechanisms of PM response, exposure–response relationships, and source linkages. This review presents selected accomplishments in these categories from the past 5-year period. Publications from the centers are summarized to provide both an overview of the accomplishments to date and easy reference to much of the original literature published by the centers. Numerous investigators worked together within and across centers to investigate the relationships between atmospheric PM and health effects, including (a) the role of reactive oxygen species, inflammation, the nervous system, and the cardiovascular system, (b) particle characteristics such as size, composition, source, and temporal pattern of exposure, and (c) phenotypic and genotypic characteristics of the population that influence the level of exposure and risk in response to a given exposure.


Air pollution Particulate matter Exposure Susceptibility Source–health relationships Acute effects Chronic effects Biological mechanisms Epidemiological associations 



Airway hyperresponsiveness




Apolipoprotein E




B aggressive lymphoma


Black carbon (preferred over EC, elemental carbon)


Body mass index


Blood pressure




Body weight


Concentrated ambient particles


Confidence interval


Central nervous system


Carbon monoxide


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease








C-reactive protein




Dendritic cell


Dichlorofluorescein diacetate


Diesel exhaust particulates


Diesel particulate filters


Dithiothreitol [assay]


Endothelial cell




Exhaled nitric oxide


chloro[[2,2′-[1,2-ethanediylbis[(nitrilo-κN)methylidyne]]bis[6-methoxyphenolato-κO]]]-manganese (not spelled out in the text)


Glutathione S-transferase M1


Human bronchial epithelial cells


High-density lipoprotein


High frequency


Hemochromatosis [gene]


Human microvascular endothelial cell


Heme oxygenase-1


Heart rate


Heart rate variability


Heat shock protein 27


Intercellular adhesion molecule-1


Interleukin [IL-4, IL-5, IL-6]


Los Angeles


Low frequency


Long interspersed nucleotide element [as in LINE-1]


Lipoprotein lipase




Mitogen-activated protein [kinase]


Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and Air Pollution


Myocardial infarction








Normative Aging Study




Nitrogen dioxide


NADPH quinone oxidoreductase-1


Organic carbon




Oxidized 1-palmitoyl-2-arachidonyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphorylcholine


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon




Particulate matter


Particulate matter <0.25 μm in diameter


Particulate matter <10 μm in diameter


Particulate matter <2.5 μm in diameter


Particle number


QT interval [in ECG]


Reactive oxygen species




Serum amyloid A


Soluble CD40 ligand [protein]


Standard deviation of normal-to-normal




Soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1


Small interfering RNA


Single nucleotide polymorphism


Superoxide dismutase 1


Isoelectric period [in ECG plot]


Soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule-1


Semivolatile organic compound


Thiobarbituric acid reactive substances assay


Toxicological Evaluation of Realistic Emissions Source Aerosols


Tumor necrosis factor-α


Vanilloid receptor 1


Ultrafine particle




Department of Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study


Vascular cell adhesion molecule-1


Vascular endothelial growth factor


von Willebrand factor





This review is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alison Geyh. The authors would like to acknowledge the substantial contributions of Drs. Michelle Bell, Jack Harkema, Mike Kleinman, Bruce Urch, Annette Peters, and Alexandria Schneider.

Grant information

Although the research described in the article has been funded wholly or in part by the US EPA, it has not been subject to the agency’s required peer and policy review and, therefore, does not necessarily reflect the views of the agency and no official endorsement should be inferred.

Conflict of interest

No competing financial interests on the part of the authors have been identified.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick N. Breysse
    • 1
  • Ralph J. Delfino
    • 2
  • Francesca Dominici
    • 5
  • Alison C. P. Elder
    • 3
  • Mark W. Frampton
    • 3
  • John R. Froines
    • 4
  • Alison S. Geyh
    • 1
  • John J. Godleski
    • 5
  • Diane R. Gold
    • 5
  • Philip K. Hopke
    • 6
  • Petros Koutrakis
    • 5
  • Ning Li
    • 4
  • Günter Oberdörster
    • 3
  • Kent E. Pinkerton
    • 7
  • Jonathan M. Samet
    • 8
  • Mark J. Utell
    • 3
  • Anthony S. Wexler
    • 7
    • 9
    Email author
  1. 1.Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.University of California, IrvineIrvineUSA
  3. 3.University of RochesterRochesterUSA
  4. 4.University of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  5. 5.Harvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  6. 6.Clarkson UniversityPotsdamUSA
  7. 7.University of California, DavisDavisUSA
  8. 8.University of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  9. 9.Air Quality Research CenterUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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