Growing evidence has indicated that PM2.5 exposure could reduce humans’ working productivity and increase work loss days.

The impacts of air pollution on public health have become great concerns worldwide. Among the most damaging air pollutants, particulate matter — microscopic solids or liquid droplets in the air — either from conventional sources such as traffic emissions or wildfire smoke can be a detriment to a person’s overall health. Acute exposure can lead to coughing, shortness of breath, tightness of the chest, irritation of the eyes, irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, and even death.

Photo of docking bay

While a large body of research summarizes PM2.5 chronic effects on health, fewer studies focused on its acute health impacts. The California Environmental Protection Agency’s California Air Resources Board (CARB) awarded UCLA CHPR a two-year grant to evaluate the acute health impacts from short-term particulate matter (PM) exposure on work loss days (sick leave) in normal times, defined as times without recent wildfires or during and after wildfires.

The project, led by Ying-Ying Meng, DrPH, co-director of the UCLA CHPR Chronic Disease Program, links 2015–2018 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) data to existing government monitoring data for PM2.5, meteorology data, and wildfire data for health impact studies.

Compared to the studies investigating wildfire PM2.5 effects, researchers found a larger body of evidence indicating the acute impact of conventional PM2.5 exposure on various health effects, especially on respiratory and cardiovascular disorders, including related to emergency and hospital visits, as well as disease-specific and all-cause mortalities.

The results of this project will inform CARB’s health benefits calculations of work loss days from PM2.5 exposure related to regulation development and also from wildfire smoke exposure.