New Study Links PM 2.5 Pollution, Immune System Damage

Jan 7, 2014

Researchers at the California National Primate Research Center & UC Davis examined the health effects of exposure to PM2.5 on primates, in a study funded by the California Air Resources Board
Credit K. West / California National Primate Research Center

A new study suggests that exposure to wildfire smoke can result in reduced immune system function. The study, funded by the California Air Resources board, looked at primates which were exposed to unusually high levels of fine particulate matter or PM2.5 for 10 days in 2008, during a number of wildfires.

The study found that monkeys which were exposed to the pollution as infants had compromised immune systems and reduced resistance to infectious disease and bacterial infections as adults. They also noted that exposure to high PM2.5 may also adversely affect the development of lung function.  

The study adds to scientists' understanding of the effects of PM2.5 on human health:

While several studies suggest short-term exposure to wildfire emissions (over a few days) can worsen symptoms of asthma and other lung diseases, no studies to date have investigated whether there are long-term health consequences to such exposures.

Numerous scientific studies have previously linked exposure to PM2.5, which can be deeply inhaled into the airways and lungs, to a variety of problems, including premature death, especially in people with pre-existing heart disease. PM is also found in smog.