Human, animal cells, heavy contributor to air pollution: study
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Human, animal cells, heavy contributor to air pollution: study

Earth Times | April 1, 2005
By Emma Price

Humans and animals contribute as much to air pollution as automobile exhaust and industrial smoke do, a study has said. Dandruff, fur, pollens, cell fragments, skin particles, spores, bacteria, protein crystals and fungi shed by humans, animals and plants are present widely in aerosols in the atmosphere, said the study by Ruprecht Jaenicke from the Institute for Atmospheric Physics at Mainz University, Germany.

Jaenicke, after studying samples of air over a period of 15 years, found that biological matter constituted almost as much as 40 per cent of all aerosols in some areas and around 25 per cent in others. The findings have been published in Science magazine.

Even though the presence of ‘bio aerosols’ in air has been known, scientists have not quantified them. Aerosols are involved in climate regulation, by warming the atmosphere by absorbing heat and cooling it by reflecting sunlight. This research can help climate scientists to study the effects of air pollution on climate and can also provide keys to certain health problems related to certain geographical regions.

Jaenicke failed to find any annual pattern to the concentration of the bio-particles. But he said that the concentration of pollens was higher in spring, while the presence of cellular material was higher during winter and fall. In his study, the author included the air prevailing around ocean and icy environs as well as near mountains.

Urging scientists to take the role of bio-aerosols seriously in health and climate research, Jaenicke said, “Don’t regard that as a minor contribution.”

According to University of Delaware’s Murray Johnston, the study merits further research. “The number concentrations of biological particles reported here are much higher than previously thought” he said.

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