SEGH Articles

# BREATH Study: Air pollution & COPD within Semi-rural Areas

08 May 2019
Carly Woods, a PhD student at the University of the West of Scotland (UWS), tells us about The Border and Regions Airways Training Hub (BREATH)

The Border and Regions Airways Training Hub (BREATH) was initiated with a €7.7m grant from the European Union INTERREG VA Programme.  This consortium was formed as a collaboration between three research centres; the University of the West of Scotland (UWS), Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) and Queen’s University Belfast (QUB).  Together, the members of the partnership are dedicated to the investigation of COPD pathogenesis, improvement of public awareness and ultimately alleviation of disease burden.

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is an umbrella term used to encompass two distinct, often concurring pulmonary disorders; emphysema and chronic bronchitis.  Emphysema develops as a result of deterioration of the alveolar walls within the lung parenchyma, thereby reducing surface area and disrupting gas exchange at the air-blood interface. Chronic bronchitis occurs when inflammation and mucus hypersecretion contribute to bronchi airway narrowing; together, these disorders manifest via symptoms such as breathlessness, wheezing, and productive cough.  Although distinct, these conditions are often categorised together as they share a common primary cause: exposure to noxious particles such as those which comprise cigarette smoke and ambient air pollution.

Within parts of Scotland and Ireland, the prevalence of COPD is particularly high (e.g. in South West Scotland where death due to COPD is up to 1.68 fold higher than the national average); current estimations suggest that ~20% of cases of this non-communicable disease are not smoking related.  Furthermore, within the UK, elevated ambient pollution levels have been observed to correspond with rates of morbidity and mortality of COPD sufferers. For these reasons, the relationship between the incidence of COPD and fluctuation in air quality is of particular interest, with numerous epidemiological studies already confirming an association in countries such as Taiwan, China and the US.

Carly Woods setting up an air quality monitor

A key BREATH project is focused on the association between airborne xenobiotics and COPD, primarily within semi-rural areas (Ayrshire and Dumfries & Galloway); specifically particulate matter (PM10 & PM2.5) and gaseous pollutants (NO2 & O3). The identified regions have not been declared as Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) but have insufficient monitoring to allow an accurate understanding of air quality dynamics to underpin this investigation.  A network of low-cost air quality monitors will be deployed within these regions to assess air quality based on a number of parameters with samples of PM characterised on the basis of main chemical indicators. UWS PhD student Carly Woods (pictured) is undertaking targeted field observations to follow up on this aspect.  In particular metal ratios in PM will be used to understand PM source apportionment. Based on field observations, PM and gaseous pollutants will be applied to in vitro models. Subsequent analysis of exposure effects of concomitant and singular xenobiotics will allow determination of the propensity of regional tropospheric particles and gases to induce or exacerbate COPD, and also help to identify the most deleterious components.

Initial stage data from this project will be presented at the 35th Society for Environmental Geochemistry and Health International Conference at Manchester Metropolitan University in July 2019. Contact Dr Iain McLellan (iain.mclellan@uws.ac.uk) for further details.

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Latest on-line papers from the SEGH journal: Environmental Geochemistry and Health

• Distribution of metal(loid)s in particle size fraction in urban soil and street dust: influence of population density 2020-01-18

### Abstract

Assessment of street dust is an invaluable approach for monitoring atmospheric pollution. Little information is available on the size distribution of contaminants in street dusts and urban soils, and it is not known how the population density would influence them. This research was carried out to assess the size distribution of trace metal(loid)s in street dust and urban soil, and to understand how population density might influence the size-resolved concentration of metal(loid)s. Three urban areas with a high, medium and low population density and a natural area were selected and urban soil and street dust sampled. They were fractionated into 8 size fractions: 2000–850, 850–180, 180–106, 106–50, 50–20, 20–10, 10–2, and < 2 µm. The concentration of Pb, Zn, Cu, Cd, Cr, Ni, As, and Fe was determined, and enrichment factor and grain size fraction loadings were computed. The results indicated that the concentration of Pb, Zn, Cu, Cd, and Cr was highly size dependent, particularly for particles < 100 µm, especially for street dust. Low concentrations of Ni and As in street dust and urban soil were size and population density independent. Higher size dependency of the metals concentration and the higher degree of elemental enrichment in the street dust fractions than the urban soils indicate higher contribution of human-induced pollution to the dust. Findings also confirm the inevitability of size fractionation when soils or dusts are environmentally assessed, particularly in moderately to highly polluted areas. Otherwise, higher concentrations of certain pollutants in fine-sized particles might be overlooked leading to inappropriate decisions for environmental remediation.

• Soil–plant system and potential human health risk of Chinese cabbage and oregano growing in soils from Mn- and Fe-abandoned mines: microcosm assay 2020-01-17

### Abstract

In Portugal, many abandoned mines are often close to agricultural areas and might be used for plant food cultivation. Soils in the vicinity of two Mn- and Fe-abandoned mines (Ferragudo and Rosalgar, SW of Portugal) were collected to cultivate two different food species (Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis (Lour.) Hanelt and Origanum vulgare L.). Chemical characterization of the soil–plant system and potential risk of adverse effects for human health posed by plants associated with soil contamination, based on the estimation of hazard quotient (HQ), were assessed in a microcosm assay under greenhouse conditions. In both soils, the average total concentrations of Fe and Mn were above the normal values for soils in the region and their concentration in shoots of both species was very high. Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis grew better in Ferragudo than in Rosalgar soils, and it behaved as an excluder of Cu, Mn, Fe, S and Zn in both soils. The HQ for Cu, Fe, Mn and Zn in the studied species grown on both soils was lower than unit indicating that its consumption is safe. The high Mn tolerance found in both species might be due in part to the high contents of Fe in the soil available fraction that might contribute to an antagonism effect in the uptake and translocation of Mn. The obtained results emphasize the need of further studies with different food crops before cultivation in the studied soils to assess health risks associated with high metal intake.

• Concentration, fractionation, and ecological risk assessment of heavy metals and phosphorus in surface sediments from lakes in N. Greece 2020-01-13

### Abstract

The presence of phosphorus (P) and heavy metals (HMs) in surface sediments originating from lakes Volvi, Kerkini, and Doirani (N. Greece), as well as their fractionation patterns, were investigated. No statistically significant differences in total P content were observed among the studied lakes, but notable differences were observed among sampling periods. HM contents in all lakes presented a consistent trend, i.e., Mn > Cr > Zn > Pb > Ni > Cu > Cd, while the highest concentrations were recorded in Lake Kerkini. Most of the HMs exceeded probable effect level value indicating a probable biological effect, while Ni in many cases even exceeded threshold effects level, suggesting severe toxic effects. P was dominantly bound to metal oxides, while a significant shift toward the labile fractions was observed during the spring period. The sum of potentially bioavailable HM fractions followed a downward trend of Mn > Cr > Pb > Zn > Cu > Ni > Cd for most lakes. The geoaccumulation index Igeo values of Cr, Cu, Mn, Ni, and Zn in all lakes characterized the sediments as “unpolluted,” while many sediments in lakes Volvi and Kerkini were characterized as “moderately to heavily polluted” with regard to Cd. The descending order of potential ecological risk $$E_{\text{r}}^{i}$$ was Cd > Pb > Cu > Ni > Cr > Zn > Mn for all the studied lakes. Ni and Cr presented the highest toxic risk index values in all lake sediments. Finally, the role of mineralogical divergences among lake sediments on the contamination degree was signified.