How Harmful Is Particulate Matter Emitted from Biomass Burning? A Thailand Perspective

Helinor J. Johnston, William Mueller, Susanne Steinle, Sotiris Vardoulakis, Kraichat Tantrakarnapa, Miranda Loh, John W. Cherrie

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Purpose of Review: A large body of epidemiological evidence demonstrates that exposure to particulate matter (PM) is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Many epidemiology studies have investigated the health effects of PM in Europe and North America and focussed on traffic derived PM. However, elevated levels of PM are a global problem and the impacts of other sources of PM on health should be assessed. Biomass burning can increase PM levels in urban and rural indoor and outdoor environments in developed and developing countries. We aim to identify whether the health effects of traffic and biomass burning derived PM are similar by performing a narrative literature review. We focus on Thailand as haze episodes from agricultural biomass burning can substantially increase PM levels. Recent Findings: Existing epidemiology, in vitro and in vivo studies suggest that biomass burning derived PM elicits toxicity via stimulation of oxidative stress, inflammation and genotoxicity. Thus, it is likely to cause similar adverse health outcomes to traffic PM, which causes toxicity via similar mechanisms. However, there is conflicting evidence regarding whether traffic or biomass burning derived PM is most hazardous. Also, there is evidence that PM released from different biomass sources varies in its toxic potency. Summary: We recommend that epidemiology studies are performed in Thailand to better understand the impacts of PM emitted from specific biomass sources (e.g. agricultural burning). Further, experimental studies should assess the toxicity of PM emitted from more diverse biomass sources. This will fill knowledge gaps and inform evidence-based interventions that protect human health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-377
Number of pages25
JournalCurrent Pollution Reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • Air pollution
  • Biomass burning
  • Epidemiology
  • Hazard
  • In vitro
  • In vivo
  • PM10
  • PM2.5
  • Particulate Matter
  • Thailand
  • Toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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