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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre SouthamptonOur research

Medical Research

Asthma is a common chronic inflammatory disease and recent studies show that atmospheric particles are important triggering factors for asthma. Some particles are naturally present in the environment (e.g. dust storms & volcanic ash), but there are also many sources of man-made particles in the atmosphere that have a variety of sources (e.g. combustion engines & mechanical wear) and compositions (e.g. organic matter & metal oxides).  In a joint project between the Faculty of Medicine and the Geochemistry Group we are examining the link between particulate composition and health.

Schiphol underground station
ICP-MS analyses

Preliminary Study

We measured the composition of atmospheric particulates (PM) collected at a mainline underground railway station. .  The results show that underground PM contains  a high concentration of Fe and other metals compared to PM from other sources.  Crucially, ultrafine underground dust was as rich in metals as coarse and fine underground PM, which may have important implications for underground PM toxicity, and warrants further study of the hitherto neglected ultrafine fraction in particular.

Morphology of ultrafine particles

Further Work

We have received funding to  extend this study to examine the health effects and the chemical composition of dust generated in areas of intensive ship movements and in desert environments.

Previously we have also had projects studying the dissemination around the body of metals released from prosthetic devices, such as hip implants, and we are interested in widening our portfolio of health-related studies.

Key Contacts

Prof. Martin Palmer

Related Links

Inflammation Science - Faculty of Medicine

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