Review of Acellular Assays of Ambient Particulate Matter Oxidative Potential: Methods and Relationships with Composition, Sources, and Health Effects

Josephine T. Bates, Ting Fang, Vishal Verma, Linghan Zeng, Rodney J. Weber, Paige E. Tolbert, Joseph Y. Abrams, Stefanie E. Sarnat, Mitchel Klein, James A. Mulholland, Armistead G. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Oxidative stress is a potential mechanism of action for particulate matter (PM) toxicity and can occur when the body's antioxidant capacity cannot counteract or detoxify harmful effects of reactive oxygen species (ROS) due to an excess presence of ROS. ROS are introduced to the body via inhalation of PM with these species present on and/or within the particles (particle-bound ROS) and/or through catalytic generation of ROS in vivo after inhaling redox-active PM species (oxidative potential, OP). The recent development of acellular OP measurement techniques has led to a surge in research across the globe. In this review, particle-bound ROS techniques are discussed briefly while OP measurements are the focus due to an increasing number of epidemiologic studies using OP measurements showing associations with adverse health effects in some studies. The most common OP measurement techniques, including the dithiothreitol assay, glutathione assay, and ascorbic acid assay, are discussed along with evidence for utility of OP measurements in epidemiologic studies and PM characteristics that drive different responses between assay types (such as species composition, emission source, and photochemistry). Overall, most OP assays respond to metals like copper than can be found in emission sources like vehicles. Some OP assays respond to organics, especially photochemically aged organics, from sources like biomass burning. Select OP measurements have significant associations with certain cardiorespiratory end points, such as asthma, congestive heart disease, and lung cancer. In fact, multiple studies have found that exposure to OP measured using the dithiothreitol and glutathione assays drives higher risk ratios for certain cardiorespiratory outcomes than PM mass, suggesting OP measurements may be integrating the health-relevant fraction of PM and will be useful tools for future health analyses. The compositional impacts, including species and emission sources, on OP could have serious implications for health-relevant PM exposure. Though more work is needed, OP assays show promise for health studies as they integrate the impacts of PM species and properties on catalytic redox reactions into one measurement, and current work highlights the importance of metals, organic carbon, vehicles, and biomass burning emissions to PM exposures that could impact health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4003-4019
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 16 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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