Air quality in the Olona Valley and in vitro human health effects

Federico Teoldi, Marco Lodi, Emilio Benfenati, Andrea Colombo, Diego Baderna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Air quality is a major point in current health policies in force globally to protect human health and ecosystems. Cardiovascular and lung diseases are the pathologies most commonly associated with air pollution and it has been estimated that exposure to particulate matters and ground-level ozone and nitric oxides caused > 500.000 premature deaths in Europe. Although air quality was generally improved in the recent years, further efforts are required to reduce the impact of air pollution on humans. The present study applied a multidisciplinary approach to estimate the adverse effects on the health of the inhabitants of the Olona Valley in the north of Italy. Chemical analyses quantified the air levels of metals, dioxins, PCBs, PAHs and some macropollutants, including total, fine and coarse airborne particles. These results were used as input for the health risk assessment and in vitro bioassays were used to evaluate possible adverse effects on the respiratory tract due to the organic pollutants adsorbed on the airborne particulate matter. Critical alerts were identified from the air characterization and from the chemical-based risk assessment in view of the levels of arsenic, nickel, benzene, fine and coarse particulate matters found in the investigated zone, which can induce severe adverse effects on human health. These findings were confirmed by bioassays with A549 and BEAS-2B cells. We also used the cell transformation assay with BALB/c 3T3 cells to assess the carcinogenicity of the organic extracts of collected particles as an innovative tool to establish the possible chronic effects of inhaled pollutants. No significant changes in morphological transformation were found suggesting that, although the extracts contain compounds with proven carcinogenic potential, in our experimental conditions the levels of these pollutants were too low to induce carcinogenesis as resulted also by the chemical-based risk assessment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1929-1939
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2017


  • Air quality
  • Cell transformation assay
  • Human health
  • Olona Valley
  • Particulate matters
  • Risk assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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