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EPRI-CARB-Funded Study Identifies Toxicity of Particulate Matter from Specific Sources

Analysis Conducted by University of California, Davis

PALO ALTO, Calif. – (February 19, 2013) – The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the California Air Resources Board released today a new study by the University of California, Davis that looks at how to distinguish health effects caused by different types of fine and ultrafine airborne particulate matter (PM).

These particles—produced by emissions from many different sources, including traffic, industrial processes, wood-burning fireplaces and gas- and coal-fired power plants — combine in the atmosphere and are affected by sunlight and other meteorological variables. This mixing makes it difficult to determine which compounds in particulate matter may be responsible for specific health effects.

New research conducted by Dr. Anthony Wexler, director of the Air Quality Research Center at the University of California, Davis and Dr. Kent Pinkerton, a professor of pediatrics at the UC Davis School of Medicine showed different levels of toxicity for different PM samples. Samples with high levels of toxicity were associated with a variety of sources. Also, ultrafine particles were more potent inducers of inflammatory markers and cell death than larger particles.

This is among the first studies to examine the toxicology of particles according to their source origin. Previous research has linked fine and ultrafine particles to asthma, heart disease and other adverse health effects. The results of this study will help researchers prioritize different particles from different sources by toxicity, and then develop a more focused and cost-effective control strategy based on those criteria.

The air samples used in this study were collected in Fresno, California. Dr. Wexler used a single particle mass spectrometer and 10 particle samplers to analyze and separate ambient particles according to their source by inspecting their chemical composition. Dr. Pinkerton introduced the particles into laboratory mice and their responses were monitored for signs of toxicity.

EPRI’s air quality research team of Dr. Annette Rohr, Dr. Stephanie Shaw and Dr. Eladio Knipping, helped design the study, as well as reviewed the methods used and results from the ambient measurements and toxicity responses.

The University of California, Davis will be presenting a seminar to discuss this study at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 19, at the CalEPA Building, 1001 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95812.

A link to the seminar description is here: http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/seminars/wexler5/wexler5.htm.

Read the study at http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/apr/past/06-331.pdf.

About the Electric Power Research Institute

The Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (EPRI, www.epri.com) conducts research and development relating to the generation, delivery and use of electricity for the benefit of the public. An independent, nonprofit organization, EPRI brings together its scientists and engineers as well as experts from academia and industry to help address challenges in electricity, including reliability, efficiency, health, safety and the environment. EPRI's members represent more than 90 percent of the electricity generated and delivered in the United States, and international participation extends to 40 countries. EPRI's principal offices and laboratories are located in Palo Alto, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Lenox, Mass.