Ultrafine particles (UFP) are the smallest constituents of airborne particulate matter: they are smaller than 0.1 micrometres and invisible to our eyes. UFP can be inhaled more deeply into the lungs than larger particles, and are likely to have adverse health effects. However, they are not routinely monitored, and up to now there is not enough conclusive evidence on health impacts of UFP.
The project UFIREC (Ultrafine Particles – an evidence based contribution to the development of regional and European environmental and health policy) aimed to improve the knowledge base on possible health effects of UFP and to raise overall awareness of environmental and health care authorities and citizens. The project started in July 2011 and lasted until December 2014.
The UFIREC partner consortiums brought together a group of seven institutions from four European countries (Czech Republic, Germany, Slovenia, Ukraine), who are experts in the fields of air pollution, epidemiology and public health. UFIREC partners established harmonised and quality-assured measurements of UFP in five cities in the Czech Republic (Prague), Germany (Augsburg, Dresden), Slovenia (Ljubljana) and Ukraine (Chernivtsi). They assessed exposure to UFP and other air pollutants and investigated short-term effects of UFP on daily counts of hospital admissions and natural deaths, especially in relation to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
To investigate the exposure of the population to UFP, UFIREC partners have established standardised UFP measurements using custom-made mobility particle size spectrometers in five cities located in Germany (Augsburg, Dresden), the Czech Republic (Prague), Slovenia (Ljubljana) and Ukraine (Chernivtsi). Epidemiological studies in the frame of the project have assessed the short-term effects of UFP on human mortality and morbidity, especially in relation to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.