Particles in the Air

The Deadliest Pollutant is One You Breathe Every Day


  • Illustrates real-life case examples involving particulate matter air pollution and its health impacts
  • Details the dangers and potential sources of toxins affecting everyday life that are seldom talked about
  • Aims the subject matter at a popular audience to convey the overarching issues caused by dangerous air toxins

The book covers the three largest sources of particulate matter pollution in five chapters. These sources constitute three of the top ten public health problems in the world today and far outstrip any other environmental health threats in terms of health impact. The book begins with indoor solid fuel combustion for cooking in lower income countries and tells the story of how this problem was identified and recent efforts to eliminate it. The book next looks at tobacco smoking and second hand smoke, again reviewing the history of how these problems were identified scientifically and the fierce industry push back against the science. The last two chapters cover ambient particulate matter in the outdoor air. They address fine and ultrafine particles, describing the pioneering work on fine PM, the subsequent industry attacks on the scientists and then the emerging interest and concern about ultrafine particles, an area of research in which the author has participated. This book is geared towards non scientists, including high school and college students.


“The global burden of exposure to particulate pollution represents one of the most important public health problems of our time. … Doug Brugge’s Particles in the Air … aims to correct this knowledge gap by laying out the many ways particulates affect health. … Brugge’s discussion of these issues makes the book a must-read for scientists, policy makers, and the general public. … This book is well written and in language that can be understood by both scientists and the lay public.”

–– Russ Lopez, Adjunct professor at the Boston University School of Public Health. Boston, MA.
“Better Hold Your Breath: Why Is It So Hard to Mitigate Particulate Hazards?” NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, (January 2019).

“Particulate matter still kills millions of people each year and urgent action is needed to reduce air pollution levels. This book describes in fairly simple fashion all you need to know about particulate matter and its effects on health. The book is informative and brings home the complexity and challenges related to the issues. It is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the basics of particulate matter and health, but it also provides advanced new knowledge. Air pollution concerns us all and this book raises further awareness of the importance of dealing with it.”

–– Mark J. Nieuwenhuijsen, Research Professor in Environmental Epidemiology, Director Air pollution and Urban Environment, Director Urban planning, Environment and Health Initiative, IS Global, Barcelona Institute for Global Health

“What a captivating journey through the rich topic of particles and PM pollution, where the sources of this killer pollutant – from ancient fire and cooking to cigarettes and cars – and the key public health research that brought us much of our current understanding are threaded into a compelling narrative. Doug Brugge artfully elucidates a complex and scientifically rigorous subject into a personable and easily digestible story, conveying an all-important punch line: the relevance of PM pollution for human health. Doug’s book is about the forks in the road – the studies, the people, and the policy decisions – that righted our views on PM and saved lives. This is a great book for the casual reader as well as a good choice for the classroom.”

–– Alberto Ayala, Director, Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, Adjunct Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, West Virginia University, Former Deputy Director, California Air Resources Board

“As we better understand the inter-generational impact of air pollutants on our health, and we welcome the rise in citizen science focused on air quality, this book is an important resource for a lay audience of residents, advocates, and policy makers.”

–– Peggy Shepard, Executive Director, Co-founder, WE ACT For Environmental Justice, New York, NY

“Professor Doug Brugge’s highly engaging and accessible prose will not only inform lay persons about the perils of translating science research into public health policies but also motivate and equip ordinary citizens to take social action that lends moral and political support to the brave scientists and public officials who put their careers and reputation on the line to engage in this high-stakes endeavor. In his own ground-breaking science research, Professor Brugge will enable policy makers to quantify the detrimental health costs of harmful externalities that would otherwise remain invisible to citizens and lawmakers alike. As an urban high school administrator, I have no doubt Professor Brugge’s work will change our urban landscape–gone will be the busy highways and byways dotted with school buildings and playgrounds.”

–– Richard K. Chang, Esq., Headmaster Josiah Quincy Upper School, Boston, MA




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