The Effects of Nano and Ultrafine Particles from Traffic Emissions on Children s Health (UPTECH)

Our Project

The aim of our study was to determine the effect of exposure to ultrafine particles (UFP, particles smaller than 0.1 μm) from motor vehicles on the health of children. The objective was to test the hypothesis that exposure to UFPs is associated with respiratory health status and systemic inflammation among children aged 8 to 11 years.


Measurements were conducted from October 2010 to August 2012, among 655 children attending 25 primary (elementary) schools in the Brisbane Metropolitan Area, Australia. Two weeks of measurements were conducted at each school, at five monitoring sites (three outdoor and two indoor) within the school grounds. UFP, as particle number concentrations (PNC), were measured at all five locations in each school. In addition, a large number of other pollutants and parameters were measured outdoors and indoors the schools, with the timing and locations of the measurements explained in the papers listed below. During the entire study concurrent monitoring was also conducted at three long-term reference sites: one at the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health (ILAQH), Queensland University of Technology (QUT), in the Brisbane CBD; and two at the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) sites.

Personal Particle Exposure Monitoring was conducted among 137 children (about 3-6 children/school), and Clinical Testing was conducted among 681 children (about 30 children at each school). Physiological attributes tested included:

  • Respiratory Symptoms: using a standardised respiratory questionnaire.
  • Lung Function: spirometry (FEV1, FVC), pre and post bronchodilator spirometry, Forced Oscillation Technique (FOT) and multiple breath nitrogen washout (MBNW)
  • Airway Inflammation: exhaled nitric oxide (eNO)
  • Allergen skin prick tests (atopy)
  • Systemic Inflammation: highly sensitive C-reactive protein (hsCRP) in the blood
  • Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke: Serum cotinine in the blood
  • DNA: genes for sensitivity to air pollution (QIMR)

The outcomes of the study are presented in 30 referred journal publications (listed below), and at 36 national and international conferences.

The main outcome of the study was the find that: UFPs do not affect respiratory health outcomes in children but do have systemic effects, detected in the form of a positive association with a biomarker for systemic inflammation. This is consistent with the known propensity of UFPs to penetrate deep into the lung and circulatory system.

The study was supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC), Linkage Projects Grant (LP0990134).

Our Team

LHS (bottom to top): Professor Lidia Morawska, Mr. Matt Falk, Professor Guy Marks, Dr. Paul Robinson, Dr. Lina Wang, Dr. Farhad Salimi.
RHS (top to bottom): Mr. Andres Quinones, Dr. Mandana Mazaheri, Mr. Megat Mokhtar, Ms. Pam Kidd, Dr. Wafaa Nabil Ezz.

Project Leader:

  • Professor Lidia Morawska, ILAQH, QUT (Lead CI)


  • Professor Godwin Ayoko, ILAQH, QUT (CI)
  • Professor Zoran Ristovski, ILAQH, QUT (CI)
  • Dr. Sama Low Choy, QUT (CI)
  • Professor Michael Moore , UQ (CI)
  • Professor Gail Williams, UQ (CI)
  • Professor Guy Marks, Woolcock Institute of Medical Research (PI)
  • Mr. Randall Fletcher, Department of Transport and Mains Road (PI)
  • Mr. John Woodland, Department of Transport and Mains Road (PI)
  • Dr. Louise Stolz, Department of Education and Training (PI)
  • Dr. Any Monk, Department of Education and Training (PI)
  • Dr. Paul Robinson, Westmead Children’s Hospital (PI)
  • Professor Kerrie Mengersen, School of Maths, QUT
  • Dr. Mandana Mazaheri, ILAQH, QUT
  • Dr. Rohan Jayaratne, ILAQH, QUT
  • Mr. Farhad Salimi, ILAQH, QUT
  • Mr. Leigh Crilley, ILAQH, QUT
  • Ms. Leisa-Maree Toms, ILAQH, QUT
  • Mr. Md Mahmudur Rahman, ILAQH, QUT
  • Ms. Nitika Mishra, ILAQH, QUT
  • Mr. Samuel Clifford, ILAQH, QUT
  • Dr. Wafaa Nabil Ezz, Woolcock Institute of Medical Research
  • A/Professor Janet Davies, UQ
  • Mr. David Wainwright, Department of Environment and Science, Queensland Government
  • Professor Giorgio Buonanno, University of Cassino, Italy
  • Professor Tunga Salthammer, Fraunhofer WKI, Germany
  • Dr. Erik Uhde, Fraunhofer WKI, Germany
  • Dr. Heidi Salonen, Aalto University, Finland

International advisory committee

  • Professor Tom Cahill, University of California, Davis, USA
  • Professor Tiina Reponen, University of Cincinnati, Health, USA
  • Professor Aino Nevalainen, National Public Health Institute (KTL), Finland
  • Professor Matti Jantunen, KTL Environmental Health, Finland
  • Professor Brunekreef Bert, Utecht University, Netherlands
  • Professor Gerard Hoek, Utrecht University, Netherlands
  • Professor Erich Wichmann, GSF Institute of Epidemiology, Neuherberg, Germany
  • Professor Xinming Wang, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, China
  • Dr. Katherine Walker, Health Effects Institute, USA
  • Dr. William Wilson, Environmental Protection Agency, USA


To view the complete list of UPTECH publications

  1. Ultrafine particle exposure and biomarkers of effect on small airways in children. Environmental Research, 241: 113860, 2022.
  2. Effects of exposure to ambient ultrafine particles on respiratory health and systemic inflammation in children”. Environmental International, 114: 167-180, 2018.  
  3. Effect of local factors on concentrations and flora of viable fungi in school buildings”. World Academy of Science, International Journal of Civil, Environmental, Structural, Construction and Architectural Engineering , 15(5): 592-595, 2017.
  4. Estimate of main local sources to ambient ultrafine particle number concentrations in an urban area”. Atmospheric Research, 194: 178-189, 2017.
  5. Identification of technical problems affecting performance of DustTrak DRX aerosol monitors”. Science of the Total Environment, 584-585: 849-855, 2017.
  6. Nocturnal new particle formation events across an urban environment”. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 17: 521–530, 2017.
  7. Variability in Exposure to Ambient Ultrafine Particles in Urban Schools: Comparative Assessment between Australia and Spain”. Environment International, 88: 142-149, 2016.
  8. Factors influencing the outdoor concentration of carbonaceous aerosols at urban schools in Brisbane, Australia”. Environmental Pollution, 208 (Part A): 249-255, 2016.
  9. Insights into the Growth of Newly Formed Particles in a Subtropical Urban Environment”. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 15: 13475–13485, 2015.
  10. Indoor air quality in naturally ventilated Italian classroomsAtmosphere, 6(11): 1652-1675, 2015.
  11. Atmospheric polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the urban environment: occurrence, toxicity and source apportionment”. Environmental Pollution, 208 (Part A): 110-117, 2016.
  12. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in dust from primary schools in South East Queensland, Australia”. Environmental Research, 142: 135-140, 2015.
  13. Evaluating the risk of mixtures in the indoor air of primary school classrooms”. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 22(19): 15080-15088, 2015.
  14. Airborne culturable fungi in naturally ventilated primary school environments in a subtropical climate”. Atmospheric Environment, Special Issue: Indoor Air. 106: 412-418, 2015.
  15. Volatile Organic Compounds: Characteristics, distribution and sources in urban schools”. Atmospheric Environment SI: Indoor Air, 106: 485-491, 2015.
  16. Airborne viable fungi in school environments in different climatic regions – A review”. Atmospheric Environment, 104: 186-194, 2015.
  17. Ultrafine Particles from Traffic Emissions and Children’s Health (UPTECH) in Brisbane, Queensland: Study Design and Implementation”. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH), 12(2): 1687-1702, 2015.
  18. Estimation of inhaled ultrafine particle surface area dose for urban environments”, ANZIAM Journal, 55: C437-C447, 2014.
  19. Elemental composition of ambient fine particles in urban schools: sources of children’s exposure”. Aerosol and Air Quality Research, 14(7): 1906-1916, 2014.
  20. Assessment and application of clustering techniques to atmospheric particle number size distribution for the purpose of source apportionment”. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 14(10): 11883-11892, 2014.
  21. Characteristics of ultrafine particle sources and deposition rates in primary school classrooms”. Atmospheric Environment, 94: 28-35, 2014.
  22. Identification of the sources of primary organic aerosols at urban schools: a molecular marker approach”. Environmental Pollution, 191: 158-165, 2014.
  23. School children’s personal exposure to ultrafine particles in the urban environment”. Environmental Science & Technology, 48(1): 113-120, 2014.
  24. First Measurements of Source apportionment of organic aerosols in the Southern Hemisphere”. Environmental Pollution, 184: 81-88, 2014.
  25. Investigation into chemistry of new particle formation and growth in subtropical urban environment”. ACP Discussions, 14: 27945-27971, 2014.
  26. Endotoxins in indoor air and settled dust in primary schools in a subtropical climate”. Environmental Science & Technology, 47(17): 9882–9890, 2013.
  27. Analysis of organic aerosols collected on filters by Aerosol Mass Spectrometry for source identification”. Analytica Chimica Acta, 803: 91-96, 2013.
  28. Health effects of daily airborne particle dose in children: direct association between personal dose and respiratory health effects”, Environmental Pollution, 180: 246-250, 2013.
  29. Spatial Variation of Particle Number Concentration in School Microscale Environments and Its Impact on Exposure Assessment”. Environmental Science & Technology, 47(10): 5251-5258, 2013.
  30. Aerosol Mass Spectrometric analysis of the chemical composition of non- refractory PM1 samples from school environments in Brisbane, Australia”. Science of the Total Environment, 458-460: 81-89, 2013.
  31. Methodology for assessing exposure and impacts of air pollutants in school children: data collection, analysis and health effects – a literature review”. Atmospheric Environment, 45: 813-823, 2011.

Funding / Grants

  • Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant LP0990134.