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Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: The Potential Health Effects of Transition Metals in Particulate Air Pollution

Currently Active: 

Airborne particulate matter of less than 10μm diameter (PM10) has been linked to a number of damaging health effects, mainly involving the lungs and cardiovascular system. The major route of exposure to such PM is via inhalation, followed by deposition in the conducting airways and alveoli. It is thought that transition metal (TM)-rich PM may be particularly toxic due to the ability of TMs to catalyse formation of toxic reactive oxygen species, which damage cells by oxidising lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids.

Project Overview

Source: M Loxham
Source: M Loxham


1. Collect size-fractionated PM from underground railway station.

2. Analyse chemical composition and morphology (Geochemistry Group).

3. Measure PM-mediated reactive oxygen generation.

4. Examine whether underground PM can elicit antioxidant and pro-inflammatory responses, or cause cell death, in airway epithelial cell cultures (Brooke Lab, Faculty of Medicine).

Source: M Loxham
Source: M Loxham


  • If underground PM is found to be toxic, there may be implications for regular commuters and workers, especially those with pre-existing lung conditions e.g. asthma.
  • Better understanding of the mechanisms of toxicity of PM may inform future improvements in material use and monitoring of at-risk groups.
  • Understanding the effects of PM on the lungs will aid understanding of how PM pollution affects other organ systems e.g. cardiovascular system, which we hope to investigate in the future.


Source: M Loxham
Source: M Loxham



PhD student Matthew Loxham is funded by an MRC ITTP Studentship, supervised by Professors Donna Davies (Medicine), Martin Palmer and Damon Teagle.


Key Contacts

Matthew Loxham (Postgraduate research student)

Professor Martin Palmer (Project supervisor)

Professor Damon Teagle (Project supervisor)

Professor Donna Davies (Project supervisor)


Loxham M, Cooper MJ, Gerlofs-Nijland ME, Cassee FR, Davies DE, Palmer MR, Teagle DAH (2013) Physicochemical characterization of airborne particulate matter at a mainline underground railway station. Submitted to Environ Sci Technol

PhDs and Other Opportunities


Associated research themes

Medical Geochemistry

Related research groups



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