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D. Understanding the Health Effects of Ultra-fine Particles

Narrator: This is Science Today. Inhalation of air pollutants like those produced by the exhaust fumes of automobiles, can expose us to a variety of toxic gases and particles. According to Dr. Ralph Delfino, an associate professor at the University of California, Irvine, exposure to pollutants known as ultra-fine particles can have serious health consequences because the toxins can enter the deepest regions of the lungs.

Delfino: They're a tenth of a micron in diameter. So they not only can reach deep into the lungs, but they're thought to be capable of penetrating right through the tissue of the lungs and into the bloodstream.

Narrator: Once in the bloodstream, these toxic particles can affect other organs in the body, such as the heart. Delfino is investigating the toxicity of these particles and the mechanism of their health effects.

Delfino: When you're breathing air pollutants, the assumption is it must be affecting your lungs. Low and behold over the last decade we've been finding more and more associations between cardiovascular, especially heart disease outcomes and air pollutant exposures

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.