Article Abstract

Different metrics (number, surface area, and volume concentration) of urban particles with varying sizes in relation to fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO)

Authors: Jicheng Gong, Tong Zhu, Min Hu, Zhijun Wu, Junfeng (Jim) Zhang

Abstract

Background: There have been increasing concerns on potential health effects of ultrafine particles (UFP); but little is known as to what are the most biologically relevant metrics for these particles that make up very little mass concentration. We examined a range of particle metrics (number, surface area, active surface area, and volume concentration) in relation to fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO), a well-established biomarker of pulmonary inflammation.
Methods: We conducted a panel study in 17 non-asthmatic children who attended schools and resided near a monitoring site at which particles in the size range of 3–800 nm were measured using a TDMPS and particles in the size range of 0.5 to 10 μm were measured using an APS. Particles were classified by size into the nucleation, Aitken, accumulation, or coarse mode, respectively, for calculating mode-specific number, surface area, active surface area, and volume concentrations. Each participating child was measured for FeNO daily for 30 days. We used linear mixed-effects models to assess the associations between various particle metrics and FeNO.
Results: In terms of number concentration, ambient particles in the Aitken mode and in the accumulation mode were significantly and positively associated with FeNO; but particles in the nucleation mode were significantly and negatively associated with FeNO. Moreover, UFP as a lump sum of both nucleationmode and Aikten-mode particles did not show a significant association with FeNO. In terms of surface area concentration, ambient particles only in the accumulation mode were significantly and positively associated with FeNO. In terms of volume concentration, ambient particles in both the accumulation mode and the coarse mode were significantly and positively associated with FeNO. Analyses of the relationships between FeNO and metrics for particles deposited in the respiratory tract generated consistent findings, showing a negative association for the number concentration of deposited particles (driven by nucleationmode particles), a positive association for the surface area concentration of deposited particles (driven by accumulation-mode particles), and a positive association for the volume concentration of deposited particles (driven by accumulation-mode and coarse-mode particles).
Conclusions: Particles contributing largely to the surface area concentration and/or the volume concentration of ambient particles or particles deposited in the respiratory tract had a significant positive association with pulmonary inflammation. Nucleation-mode particles, that have large number concentrations but contribute little to the surface area or volume concentration of ambient or deposited particles, had a significant negative association with FeNO. This may indicate a different biological process or may simply be due to the negative and strong correlation between nucleation-mode and accumulation-mode particles. Given that particles in different modes may have different biological actions, measuring UFP as a whole may not necessarily be useful from a biological effect standpoint.