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Microscopic dust particles found in underground railways may pose health risk
Date:4/24/2013

New research from the University of Southampton has found that working or travelling on an underground railway for a sustained period of time could have health implications.

Previously published work suggests that working in environments such as steel mills or welding plants, which are rich in airborne metals, like iron, copper and nickel, can have damaging effects on health. However, little research has been done on the effects of working in an underground railway environment a similarly metal-rich environment and results of studies that have been conducted are often inconclusive.

New research published in Environmental Science and Technology shows that the small dust particles in the air in an underground railway is quite different to the dust that you breathe in every day and that could have health implications.

Matt Loxham, PhD student at the University of Southampton, explains: "We studied the ultrafine dust (or particulate matter) found in an underground station in Europe. Typically, ultrafine dust is composed of inert matter that does not pose much of a risk in terms of its chemical composition. However, in the underground station we studied, the ultrafine dust was at least as rich in metals as the larger dust particles and therefore, taken together with their increased surface area to volume ratio, it is of potential significance in understanding the risks of working and travelling in the underground. These tiny dust particles have the potential to penetrate the lungs and the body more easily, posing a risk to someone's health."

While coarse dust is generally deposited in the conducting airways of the body, for example nasal passages and bronchi; and the fine dust generally can reach the bronchioles (smaller airways), it is almost exclusively the ultrafine dust which is able to reach the deepest areas of the lungs, into the alveoli, where oxygen enters the blood and waste gases leave, to be exhaled. There is
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Contact: Becky Attwood
r.attwood@soton.ac.uk
44-023-805-95457
University of Southampton
Source:Eurekalert

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