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Will “Air Eutrophication” Increase the Risk of Ecological Threat to Public Health?

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  • Yan Feng Sun, Yunnan University
  • ,
  • Yuming Guo, Monash University
  • ,
  • Chi Xu, Nanjing University
  • ,
  • Ying Liu, Yunnan University
  • ,
  • Xu Zhao, Yunnan University
  • ,
  • Qian Liu, CAS - Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences
  • ,
  • Erik Jeppesen
  • Haijun Wang, Yunnan University
  • ,
  • Ping Xie, Yunnan University, CAS - Institute of Hydrobiology

Aquatic eutrophication, often with anthropogenic causes, facilitates blooms of cyanobacteria including cyanotoxin producing species, which profoundly impact aquatic ecosystems and human health. An emerging concern is that aquatic eutrophication may interact with other environmental changes and thereby lead to unexpected cascading effects on terrestrial systems. Here, we synthesize recent evidence showing the possibility that accelerating eutrophication will spill over from aquatic ecosystems to the atmosphere via “air eutrophication”, a novel concept that refers to a process promoting the growth of airborne algae, some of them with the capacity to produce toxic compounds for humans and other organisms. Being catalyzed by various anthropogenic forcings─including aquatic eutrophication, climate warming, air contamination, and artificial light at night─accelerated air eutrophication may be expected in the future, posing a potentially increasing risk of threat to public health and the environment. So far knowledge of this topic is sparse, and we therefore consider air eutrophication a potentially important research field and propose an agenda of cross-discipline research. As a contribution, we have calculated a tolerable daily intake of 17 ng m-3 day-1 for the nasal intake of microcystins by humans.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Pages (from-to)10512-10520
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

    Research areas

  • air eutrophication, airborne algae, microcystins, public health

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