“Luckily, most of them do not remain in the underground for any length of time,” says scientist Hanna Karlsson. “However, particle levels are often very high. My results show that there is every reason to speed up the work being done to clean the air in the underground.”
Every year, some 5,300 Swedes die premature deaths from inhaling the microscopic particles of coal, asphalt, iron and other materials that pollute the city’s air. These particles, which are the result of incomplete combustion, road surface attrition, etc. could be reduced if the right steps were taken; the problem is that it is not known which particle sources pose the greatest threat to human health.
To build up a picture of which particles are the most harmful, Dr Karlsson has compared how particles from a variety of sources affect cultured lung cells. The results, which are presented in her thesis Particularly harmful particles show that particles from the Stockholm underground are much more damaging to cellular DNA than the other sources tested (e.g. wood smoke and cars).
The airborne particles in the underground system largely comprise iron, and are formed by the abrasion of the train wheels against the rails. The damage is caused when these particles enter the body and form free radicals in the body’s cells. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that can prove harmful to the cell’s DNA; although such damage can often be repaired by the cell, it can sometime remains untreated, and this increases the risk of cancer.
Another type of particle that stood out in the studies was that caused by the friction between car tyres and the road surface. The report shows that these particles trigger a powerful inflammatory response (i.e. a general defence reaction in the body). Levels of these particles are particularly high in the spring, when road surfaces dry out and cars are still fitted with studded winter tyres.
“It’s a serious problem, as these particles exist in large concentrations in environments that people remain in for long periods,” says Dr Karlsson.
Apart from particles from the underground and the roads, the study also examined those released by the combustion of wood, pellets and diesel. None of the other types of particle tested were totally harmless. Modern wood- and pellet-burning boilers gave off much fewer emissions than old ones, but the particles produced were no less harmful.
Katarina Sternudd | alfa
Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator
23.02.2018 | University of Turku
Minimising risks of transplants
22.02.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.
In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...
A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.
By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy