Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Global dimming


The CDC recommends that healthcare settings provide influenza patients with facemasks as a means of reducing transmission to staff and other patients, and a recent report suggested that surgical masks can capture influenza virus in large droplet spray. However, there is minimal data on influenza virus aerosol shedding, the infectiousness of exhaled aerosols, and none on the impact of facemasks on viral aerosol shedding from patients with seasonal influenza. We collected samples of exhaled particles (one with and one without a facemask) in two size fractions (“coarse”>5 µm, “fine"≤5 µm) from 37 volunteers within 5 days of seasonal influenza onset, measured viral copy number using quantitative RT-PCR, and tested the fine-particle fraction for culturable virus. Fine particles contained 8.8 (95% CI 4.1 to 19) fold more viral copies than did coarse particles. Surgical masks reduced viral copy numbers in the fine fraction by 2.8 fold (95% CI 1.5 to 5.2) and in the coarse fraction by 25 fold (95% CI 3.5 to 180). Overall, masks produced a 3.4 fold (95% CI 1.8 to 6.3) reduction in viral aerosol shedding. Correlations between nasopharyngeal swab and the aerosol fraction copy numbers were weak (r = 0.17, coarse; r = 0.29, fine fraction). Copy numbers in exhaled breath declined rapidly with day after onset of illness. Two subjects with the highest copy numbers gave culture positive fine particle samples. Surgical masks worn by patients reduce aerosols shedding of virus. The abundance of viral copies in fine particle aerosols and evidence for their infectiousness suggests an important role in seasonal influenza transmission. Monitoring exhaled virus aerosols will be important for validation of experimental transmission studies in humans.

Concepts: Influenza, Number, Part, Particulate, Aerosol, Particulates, Reassortment, Global dimming


The widespread, intentional and increasingly frequent chemical emplacement in the troposphere has gone unidentified and unremarked in the scientific literature for years. The author presents evidence that toxic coal combustion fly ash is the most likely aerosolized particulate sprayed by tanker-jets for geoengineering, weather-modification and climate-modification purposes and describes some of the multifold consequences on public health. Two methods are employed: (1) Comparison of 8 elements analyzed in rainwater, leached from aerosolized particulates, with corresponding elements leached into water from coal fly ash in published laboratory experiments, and (2) Comparison of 14 elements analyzed in dust collected outdoors on a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter with corresponding elements analyzed in un-leached coal fly ash material. The results show: (1) the assemblage of elements in rainwater and in the corresponding experimental leachate are essentially identical. At a 99% confidence interval, they have identical means (T-test) and identical variances (F-test); and (2) the assemblage of elements in the HEPA dust and in the corresponding average un-leached coal fly ash are likewise essentially identical. The consequences on public health are profound, including exposure to a variety of toxic heavy metals, radioactive elements, and neurologically-implicated chemically mobile aluminum released by body moisture in situ after inhalation or through transdermal induction.

Concepts: Chemistry, Experiment, Particulate, Coal, Air pollution, Fly ash, Pozzolana, Global dimming


We summarize a portfolio of possible field experiments on solar radiation management (SRM) and related technologies. The portfolio is intended to support analysis of potential field research related to SRM including discussions about the overall merit and risk of such research as well as mechanisms for governing such research and assessments of observational needs. The proposals were generated with contributions from leading researchers at a workshop held in March 2014 at which the proposals were critically reviewed. The proposed research dealt with three major classes of SRM proposals: marine cloud brightening, stratospheric aerosols and cirrus cloud manipulation. The proposals are summarized here along with an analysis exploring variables such as space and time scale, risk and radiative forcing. Possible gaps, biases and cross-cutting considerations are discussed. Finally, suggestions for plausible next steps in the development of a systematic research programme are presented.

Concepts: Scientific method, Research methods, Critical thinking, Evaluation methods, Science, Research, Research and development, Global dimming


Exposure to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) exacerbates respiratory and cardiovascular conditions and is a leading source of premature mortality globally. Organic aerosol contributes a significant fraction of PM in the United States. Here, using surface observations between 1990 and 2012, we show that organic carbon has declined dramatically across the entire United States by 25-50%; accounting for more than 30% of the US-wide decline in PM. The decline is in contrast with the increasing organic aerosol due to wildfires and no clear trend in biogenic emissions. By developing a carbonaceous emissions database for the United States, we show that at least two-thirds of the decline in organic aerosol can be explained by changes in anthropogenic emissions, primarily from vehicle emissions and residential fuel burning. We estimate that the decrease in anthropogenic organic aerosol is responsible for averting 180,000 (117,000-389,000) premature deaths between 1990 and 2012. The unexpected decrease in organic aerosol, likely a consequence of the implementation of Clean Air Act Amendments, results in 84,000 (30,000-164,000) more lives saved than anticipated by the EPA between 2000 and 2010.

Concepts: United States, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate, Smog, Air pollution, Volcano, Dust, Global dimming


Solar dimming and wind stilling (slowdown) are two outstanding climate changes occurred in China over the last four decades. The wind stilling may have suppressed the dispersion of aerosols and amplified the impact of aerosol emission on solar dimming. However, there is a lack of long-term aerosol monitoring and associated study in China to confirm this hypothesis. Here, long-term meteorological data at weather stations combined with short-term aerosol data were used to assess this hypothesis. It was found that surface solar radiation (SSR) decreased considerably with wind stilling in heavily polluted regions at a daily scale, indicating that wind stilling can considerably amplify the aerosol extinction effect on SSR. A threshold value of 3.5 m/s for wind speed is required to effectively reduce aerosols concentration. From this SSR dependence on wind speed, we further derived proxies to quantify aerosol emission and wind stilling amplification effects on SSR variations at a decadal scale. The results show that aerosol emission accounted for approximately 20% of the typical solar dimming in China, which was amplified by approximately 20% by wind stilling.

Concepts: Weather, Climate change, Particulate, Aerosol, Solar variation, Wind, Wind power, Global dimming


Particulate matter (PM) pollution is a leading cause of premature death, particularly in those with pre-existing lung disease. A causative link between particle properties and adverse health effects remains unestablished mainly due to complex and variable physico-chemical PM parameters. Controlled laboratory experiments are required. Generating atmospherically realistic aerosols and performing cell-exposure studies at relevant particle-doses are challenging. Here we examine gasoline-exhaust particle toxicity from a Euro-5 passenger car in a uniquely realistic exposure scenario, combining a smog chamber simulating atmospheric ageing, an aerosol enrichment system varying particle number concentration independent of particle chemistry, and an aerosol deposition chamber physiologically delivering particles on air-liquid interface (ALI) cultures reproducing normal and susceptible health status. Gasoline-exhaust is an important PM source with largely unknown health effects. We investigated acute responses of fully-differentiated normal, distressed (antibiotics-treated) normal, and cystic fibrosis human bronchial epithelia (HBE), and a proliferating, single-cell type bronchial epithelial cell-line (BEAS-2B). We show that a single, short-term exposure to realistic doses of atmospherically-aged gasoline-exhaust particles impairs epithelial key-defence mechanisms, rendering it more vulnerable to subsequent hazards. We establish dose-response curves at realistic particle-concentration levels. Significant differences between cell models suggest the use of fully-differentiated HBE is most appropriate in future toxicity studies.

Concepts: Death, Senescence, Cystic fibrosis, Ageing, Particulate, Aerosol, Air pollution, Global dimming


Salmonella typhimurium strains TA98 and TA100 were used to assess the mutagenic potential of the aerosol from a commercially available, rechargeable, closed system electronic-cigarette. Results obtained were compared to those for the mainstream smoke from a Kentucky reference (3R4F) cigarette. Two different test matrices were assessed. Aerosol generated from the e-cigarette was trapped on a Cambridge filter pad, eluted in DMSO and compared to cigarette smoke total particulate matter (TPM), which was generated in the same manner for mutagenicity assessment in the Salmonella assay. Fresh e-cigarette and cigarette smoke aerosols were generated on the Vitrocell(®) VC 10 smoking robot and compared using a modified scaled-down 35mm air agar interface (AAI) methodology. E-cigarette aerosol collected matter (ACM) was found to be non-mutagenic in the 85mm plate incorporation Ames assay in strains TA98 and TA100 conducted in accordance with OECD 471, when tested up to 2400μg/plate. Freshly generated e-cigarette aerosol was also found to be negative in both strains after an AAI aerosol exposure, when tested up to a 1L/min dilution for up to 3h. Positive control responses were observed in both strains, using benzo[a]pyrene, 2-nitrofluorene, sodium azide and 2-aminoanthracene in TA98 and TA100 in the presence and absence of metabolic activation respectively. In contrast, cigarette smoke TPM and aerosol from 3R4F reference cigarettes were found to be mutagenic in both tester strains, under comparable test conditions to that of e-cigarette exposure. Limited information exists on the mutagenic activity of captured e-cigarette particulates and whole aerosol AAI approaches. With the lower toxicant burden of e-cigarette aerosols compared to cigarette smoke, it is clear that a more comprehensive Ames package of data should be generated when assessing e-cigarettes, consisting of the standard OECD-five, TA98, TA100, TA1535, TA1537 (or TA97) and E. coli (or TA102). In addition, TA104 which is more sensitive to the carbonyl based compounds found in e-cigarette aerosols under dry-wicking conditions may also prove a useful addition in a testing battery. Regulatory standard product testing approaches as used in this study will become important when determining whether e-cigarette aerosols are in fact less biologically active than cigarette smoke, as this study suggests. Future studies should be supported by in vitro dosimetry approaches to draw more accurate comparisons between cigarette smoke, e-cigarette aerosol exposure and human use.

Concepts: Smoking, Tobacco, Cigarette, Particulate, Visibility, Smoke, Aerosol, Global dimming


The potential of the force control agent (FCA) magnesium stearate (MgSt) to enhance the aerosol performance of lactose-based dry powder inhaled (DPI) formulations was investigated in this study. The excipient blends were investigated with analytical techniques including time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) and Single Particle Aerosol Mass Spectrometry (SPAMS) and particle size, morphology and surface properties were evaluated. Excipient-blends were manufactured either by high-shear or low-shear blending lactose carrier with different amounts of MgSt in the range from 0-10% (w/w). Fluticasone propionate (FP) and salmeterol xinafoate (SX) used as model APIs were added by low-shear mixing. The in vitro aerosol performance in terms of aerodynamic particle size distribution (APSD) and fine particle fraction (FPF) of the FP and SX DPI formulations was evaluated with the Next Generation Impactor (NGI) and also with SPAMS using a Breezhaler® inhalation device. The distribution of MgSt on the lactose carrier in the blends was visualized and found to depend strongly on the blending method. This affected drug particle detachment from the carrier and thus impacted aerosol performance for FP and SX. Compared to blends without FCA, low-shear blending of MgSt increases the FPF of the model drug SX, while high shear blending significantly increased FPF of both SX and FP. The interactions between drug and carrier particles were substantially affected by the choice of blending technique of MgSt with lactose. This allows detailed control of aerosol performance of a DPI by an adequate choice of the blending technique. SPAMS successfully demonstrated that it is capable to distinguish changes in DPI formulations blended with different amounts of MgSt and additional information in terms of dispersibility of fine particles could be generated.

Concepts: Asthma, Mass spectrometry, Particle size distribution, Particulate, Particulates, Global dimming, Salmeterol, Fluticasone/salmeterol


Secondary organic aerosol (SOA) constitutes a major fraction of submicrometer atmospheric particulate matter. Quantitative simulation of SOA within air-quality and climate models-and its resulting impacts-depends on the translation of SOA formation observed in laboratory chambers into robust parameterizations. Worldwide data have been accumulating indicating that model predictions of SOA are substantially lower than ambient observations. Although possible explanations for this mismatch have been advanced, none has addressed the laboratory chamber data themselves. Losses of particles to the walls of chambers are routinely accounted for, but there has been little evaluation of the effects on SOA formation of losses of semivolatile vapors to chamber walls. Here, we experimentally demonstrate that such vapor losses can lead to substantially underestimated SOA formation, by factors as much as 4. Accounting for such losses has the clear potential to bring model predictions and observations of organic aerosol levels into much closer agreement.

Concepts: Scientific method, Particle physics, Chemistry, Philosophy of science, Hypothesis, Particulate, Aerosol, Global dimming


Climate impacts of forest bioenergy result from a multitude of warming and cooling effects and vary by location and technology. While past bioenergy studies have analysed a limited number of climate-altering pollutants and activities, no studies have jointly addressed supply chain greenhouse gas emissions, biogenic CO2fluxes, aerosols and albedo changes at high spatial and process detail. Here, we present a national-level climate impact analysis of stationary bioenergy systems in Norway based on wood-burning stoves and wood biomass-based district heating. We find that cooling aerosols and albedo offset 60-70% of total warming, leaving a net warming of 340 or 69 kg CO2e MWh-1for stoves or district heating, respectively. Large variations are observed over locations for albedo, and over technology alternatives for aerosols. By demonstrating both notable magnitudes and complexities of different climate warming and cooling effects of forest bioenergy in Norway, our study emphasizes the need to consider multiple forcing agents in climate impact analysis of forest bioenergy.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Climate change, Methane, Fossil fuel, Greenhouse gas, Global warming, Biomass, Global dimming