Health Effects of Atmospheric Particulates: A Medical Geology Perspective

Journal of Environmental Science and Health. 2008 Jan-Mar;26(1):1-39. [Link]

Duzgoren-Aydin NS.

The University of Mississippi, National Center for Natural Products Research, University, Mississippi 38677, USA.


In this review, atmospheric particulates as composite airborne earth materials often containing both natural and anthropogenic components were examined in the context of medical geology. Despite a vast number of both experimental and epidemiological studies confirming the direct and indirect links between atmospheric particulates and human health, the exact nature of mechanisms affecting the particulate-induced pathogenesis largely remains unexplored. Future in depth research on these areas would be most successful if potential mechanisms are examined with reference to the physical (e.g., size, shape and surface), chemical, mineralogical and source characteristics of particulate matters.

The underlying goal of this review was to present the relevant terminology and processes proposed in the literature to explain the interfaces and interactions between atmospheric particles and human body within the framework of "atmospheric particle cycles." The complexities of the interactions were demonstrated through case studies focusing on particulate matter air pollution and malignant mesothelioma occurrences due to environmental exposure to erionite-a fibrous zeolite mineral. There is an urgent need for a standard protocol or speciation methods applicable to earth-materials to guide and streamline studies on etiology of mineral-induced diseases. This protocol or speciation methods should provide relevant procedures to determine the level and extent of physical, chemical and mineralogical heterogeneity of particulate matters as well as quantitative in-situ particulate characteristics.

Keywords: Air pollution; atmospheric particulate; earth material; erionite; medical geology; mineral dust; mineral-induced pathogenesis