Results of recent research show that particulate matter ( PM) composition and size vary widely with both space and time. Despite the variability in PM characteristics, which are believed to influence human health risks, the observed relative health risk estimates per unit PM mass falls within a narrow range of values. Furthermore, no single chemical species appears to dominate health effects; rather the effects appear to be due to a combination of species. Non-PM factors such as socioeconomic status and lifestyle are also believed to affect the health risk, although accounting for these confounding factors is challenging. Airborne PM is also responsible for a number of effects aside from human health, such as alterations in visibility and climate. Because the PM problem is associated with a range of societal issues such as energy production and economic development, making progress on reducing the effects of PM will require integrated strategies that bring together scientists and decision makers from different disciplines to consider tradeoffs holistically.
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