Lancet research - Air pollution kills, even at guideline levels
A study published in The Lancet this month confirmed that current EU air quality legislation is far from sufficient to protect Europeans’ health. The study estimates that for every 5 micrograms per cubic metre increase in annual exposure to fine-particle pollution, the risk of dying rises by 7 per cent.
Few studies on long-term exposure to air pollution and mortality have been reported from Europe. Within the multicentre European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects (ESCAPE), The Lancet aimed to investigate the association between natural-cause mortality and long-term exposure to several air pollutants.
Data was used from 22 European cohort studies, which created a total study population of 367 251 participants. All cohorts were general population samples, although some were restricted to one sex only. Residential exposure to air pollutants as annual average concentrations of PM was assessed and annual average concentrations of nitrogen oxides. Two traffic intensity variables was also investigated —traffic intensity on the nearest road (vehicles per day) and total traffic load on all major roads within a 100 m buffer
The total study population consisted of 367 251 participants who contributed 5 118 039 person-years at risk, of whom 29 076 died from a natural cause during follow-up. A significantly increased hazard ratio (HR) for PM2.5 was recorded.
HRs for PM2.5 remained significantly raised even when only participants exposed to pollutant concentrations lower than the European annual mean limit value of 25 μg/m3 were included.
Long-term exposure to fine particulate air pollution was associated with natural-cause mortality, even within concentration ranges well below the present European annual mean limit value.
Full article available here (subscription only) http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2813%2962158-3/abstract
Last updated on 16 December 2013