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There is increasing scientific and medical evidence that exposure to fine and ultra fine particulate matter could have relatively more significant health implications than exposure to larger particles or to other airborne pollutants. At present there is, however, not enough information available on the exposure-response relationship for fine and ultra fine particulate matter to consider appropriate guidelines, which would protect the whole population or at least the most susceptible groups.

The WHO Guidelines for Air Quality, published recently, present the current knowledge on exposure-response relationships with respect to particles smaller than 10 µm, but only marginal evidence for fine particles, defined as particles with an aerodynamic diameter below 2.5 µm. The current difficulties relate to the scientific complexity of exposure assessment to fine particulate matter at all levels of approaches, including: instrumentation, measurement, modelling, model validation and data interpretation. In addition, at present, there is not enough information available to explain the mechanisms by which inhaled particles cause a range of health effects.

These and other related issues should be brought to the attention of the scientific community undertaking new epidemiological studies, together with some broad guidelines to help the researchers in directing their studies. To facilitate this, WHO undertook the task of developing the present guidelines, in association with the European Commission's Joint Research Centre. This document is the outcome of the WHO and JRC Expert Task Force meeting held in Ispra, Italy, in November 2000.

The electronic form of this document is available on the web site of the World Health Organization:

Additional information

Authors: SCHWELA D, World Health Organisation, Geneva (CH);MORAWSKA L, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane (AU);KOTZIAS D, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Ispra (IT)
Bibliographic Reference: EUR 20238 EN (2002), 186pp. Free of charge
Availability: Available from European Commission, JRC Knowledge Management Unit, Ispra (IT) Tel: +39 033278 9843 or +39 033278 9864 Fax: +39 033278 9623 E-mail:
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