The influence of air pollution on disability days in Toronto during the period 1994-1999 was examined using data from Canada's National Population Health Survey. A model of disability days (the sum of days spent in bed and days when the respondent cut down on usual activities) during the 2 weeks prior to the interview was constructed by sequentially examining the influence of time period, personal characteristics, weather, and air pollution. After adjusting for these other factors, only the effects of carbon monoxide and particulate matter of median diameter less than 2.5 microm (PM2.5) were statistically significant (respectively, 30.8% (95% CI 1.2-69.0) and 21.9% (95% CI 3.8-43.0) increase in disability days for a change in concentration equal to the interquartile range of the 2-week average pollutant concentration). PM2.5 was more strongly associated with disability days in the warm season. Results of multipollutant models were difficult to interpret in that effect sizes appeared to be influenced by covariation among pollutants. With the exception of warm season results for PM2.5, findings were not sensitive to alternative analytical approaches. While these results are suggestive of significant effects of the urban air pollution mix at relatively low ambient concentrations, the precise contribution of individual pollutants could not be determined.
This article provides (1) a synthesis of the literature on the linkages between air pollution and human health, (2) an overview of quality management approaches in Canada, the United States, and the European Union (EU), and (3) future directions for air quality research. Numerous studies examining short-term effects of air pollution show significant associations between ambient levels of particulate matter (PM) and other air pollutants and increases in premature mortality and hospitalizations for cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses. Several well-designed epidemiological studies confirmed the adverse long-term effects of PM on both mortality and morbidity. Epidemiological studies also document significant associations between ozone (O3), sulfur (SO2), and nitrogen oxides (NO(x)) and adverse health outcomes; however, the effects of gaseous pollutants are less well documented. Subpopulations that are more susceptible to air pollution include children, the elderly, those with cardiorespiratory disease, and socioeconomically deprived individuals. Canada-wide standards for ambient air concentrations of PM2.5 and O3 were set in 2000, providing air quality targets to be achieved by 2010. In the United States, the Clean Air Act provides the framework for the establishment and review of National Ambient Air Quality Standards for criteria air pollutants and the establishment of emissions standards for hazardous air pollutants. The 1996 European Union's enactment of the Framework Directive for Air Quality established the process for setting Europe-wide limit values for a series of pollutants. The Clean Air for Europe program was established by the European Union to review existing limit values, emission ceilings, and abatement protocols, as set out in the current legislation. These initiatives serve as the legislative framework for air quality management in North America and Europe.
McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment, Institute of Population Health, and Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Sliu@uottawa.ca
The association between ambient air pollution and adverse health effects, such as emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and mortality from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, has been studied extensively in many countries, including Canada. Recently, studies conducted in China, the Czech Republic, and the United States have related ambient air pollution to adverse pregnancy outcomes. In this study, we examined association between preterm birth, low birth weight, and intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) among singleton live births and ambient concentrations of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and ozone in Vancouver, Canada, for 1985-1998. Multiple logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for such effects. Low birth weight was associated with exposure to SO2 during the first month of pregnancy (OR = 1.11, 95% CI, 1.01-1.22, for a 5.0 ppb increase). Preterm birth was associated with exposure to SO2 (OR = 1.09, 95% CI, 1.01-1.19, for a 5.0 ppb increase) and to CO (OR = 1.08, 95% CI, 1.01-1.15, for a 1.0 ppm increase) during the last month of pregnancy. IUGR was associated with exposure to SO2 (OR = 1.07, 95% CI, 1.01-1.13, for a 5.0 ppb increase), to NO2 (OR = 1.05, 95% CI, 1.01-1.10, for a 10.0 ppb increase), and to CO (OR = 1.06, 95% CI, 1.01-1.10, for a 1.0 ppm increase) during the first month of pregnancy. In conclusion, relatively low concentrations of gaseous air pollutants are associated with adverse effects on birth outcomes in populations experiencing diverse air pollution profiles.
Previous research demonstrated consistent associations between ambient air pollution and emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and mortality. Effect of air pollution on perinatal outcomes has recently drawn more attention. We examined the association between intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) among singleton term live births and sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3), and fine particles (PM2.5) present in ambient air in the Canadian cities of Calgary, Edmonton, and Montreal for the period 1985-2000. Multiple logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for IUGR, based on average daily levels of individual pollutants over each month and trimester of pregnancy after adjustment for maternal age, parity, infant gender, season, and city of residence. A 1 ppm increase in CO was associated with an increased risk of IUGR in the first (OR=1.18; 95% CI 1.14-1.23), second (OR=1.15; 95% CI 1.10-1.19) and third (OR=1.19; 95% CI 1.14-1.24) trimesters of pregnancy, respectively. A 20 ppb increase in NO2 (OR=1.16; 95% CI 1.09-1.24; OR=1.14; 95% CI 1.06--1.21; and OR=1.16; 95% CI 1.09-1.24 in the first, second, and third trimesters) and a 10 mug/m3 increase in PM2.5 (OR=1.07; 95% CI 1.03-1.10; OR=1.06; 95% CI 1.03-1.10; and OR=1.06; 95% CI 1.03-1.10) were also associated with an increased risk of IUGR. Consistent results were found when ORs were calculated by month rather than trimester of pregnancy. Our findings add to the emerging body of evidence that exposure to relatively low levels of ambient air pollutants in urban areas during pregnancy is associated with adverse effects on fetal growth.
In this study, the authors assessed the impact of particulate air pollution on first respiratory hospitalization. Study subjects were children less than 3 years of age living in Vancouver, British Columbia, who had their first hospitalization as a result of any respiratory disease (ICD-9 codes 460-519) during the period from June 1, 1995, to March 31, 1999. The authors used logistic regression to estimate the associations between ambient concentrations of particulate matter (PM) and first hospitalization. The adjusted odds ratios for first respiratory hospitalization associated with mean and maximal PM10-2.5 with a lag of 3 days were 1.12 (95% confidence interval: 0.98, 1.28) and 1.13 (1.00, 1.27). After adjustment for gaseous pollutants, the corresponding odds ratios were 1.22 (1.02, 1.48) and 1.14 (0.99, 1.32). The data indicated the possibility of harmful effects from coarse PM on first hospitalization for respiratory disease in early childhood.
The purpose of this study was to examine the association between ambient air pollution and hospitalization for respiratory infections among children who were younger than 15 years in Toronto during a 4-year period (1998-2001).
Exposures averaged during periods that varied from 1 to 7 days were used to assess the effects of air pollutants, including thoracic particulate matter (PM10), fine (PM2.5) and coarse (PM10-2.5) particulate matter, carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and ozone (O3), on hospitalization for respiratory infections. A case-crossover design was used to calculate odds ratios for the hospitalization adjusted for daily weather conditions with an incremented exposure corresponding to the interquartile range in air pollution exposures.
When particulate matter and gaseous pollutants were mutually taken into account, the effect remained pronounced for PM10-2.5 in both boys and girls. The adjusted odds ratio for 6-day average exposure to PM10-2.5 with an increment of 6.5 microg/m3 was 1.15 (95% confidence interval: 1.02-1.30) for boys and 1.18 (95% confidence interval: 1.01-1.36) for girls. The effect also remained for PM10 in boys and for NO2 in girls. PM2.5, CO, SO2, and O3 showed no significant effects on hospitalization for respiratory infection in both genders when other pollutants were taken into consideration.
Our study suggested a detrimental effect of relatively low levels of ambient particulate matter and gaseous pollutants, especially coarse particulate matter and NO2, on hospitalization for respiratory infections in children.
Time series analysis is the most commonly used technique for assessing the association between counts of health events over time and exposure to ambient air pollution. Recently, case-crossover analysis has been proposed as an alternative analytical approach. While each technique has its own advantages and disadvantages, there remains considerable uncertainty as to which statistical methodology is preferable for evaluating data of this type.
The objective of this paper is to evaluate the performance of different variations of these two procedures using computer simulation. Hospital admission data were generated under realistic models with known parameters permitting estimates based on time series and case-crossover analyses to be compared with these known values.
While accurate estimates can be achieved with both methods, both methods require some decisions to be made by the researcher during the course of the analysis. With time series analysis, it is necessary to choose the time span in the LOESS smoothing process, or degrees of freedom when using natural cubic splines. For case-crossover studies using either uni- or bi-directional control selection strategies, the choice of time intervals needs to be made.
We prefer the times series approach because the best estimates of risk that can be obtained with time series analysis are more precise than the best estimates based on case-crossover analysis.
Comment In: Int J Epidemiol. 2003 Dec;32(6):107114681276
The objective of this article is to examine differences in the effect of ambient particulate matter on first, second, and overall hospital admissions for respiratory disease among the elderly. We studied 8989 adults 65 yr of age or older living in the greater Vancouver area who were admitted to hospital for any acute respiratory disease (ICD-9 codes 460-519) between June 1, 1995, and March 31, 1999. Time-series analysis was used to evaluate the association between respiratory admissions and daily measures of particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5, and PM10 - 2.5) in urban air, after adjustment for gaseous copollutants (CO, O3, NO2, and SO2) and meteorological variables. Repeated admissions for respiratory disease were common among the elderly. Approximately 30% of the subjects were readmitted to hospital after the first admission; 9% had more than 2 admissions for respiratory disease during the 4-yr study period. PM10 - 2.5 was significantly associated with the second and overall admissions for respiratory disease, but not with the first admission. The adjusted relative risks for an increment of 4.2 microg/m(3) in -day average PM10 - 2.5 concentrations were 1.03 (95% confidence interval: 0.98-1.09) for the first admission, 1.22 (1.10-1.36) for the second admission, and 1.06 (1.02, 1.11) for overall admissions. There was no significant association between PM2.5 and hospital admissions for respiratory disease among the elderly. Our data suggest that (1) people with a history of respiratory admissions are at a higher risk of respiratory disease in relation to particulate air pollution in urban areas, (2) analyses based on overall rather than repeated hospital admissions lead to lower estimates of the risk of respiratory disease associated with particulate air pollution, and (3) PM10 - 2.5 has a larger effect on respiratory admissions than PM2.5.
Associations of gaseous air pollutants (including carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone) with asthma hospitalization, stratified by sex and socioeconomic status, were examined among children 6-12 years of age in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, between 1987 and 1998. Relative risks for an exposure increment corresponding to the interquartile range for each gaseous air pollutant were estimated for asthma hospitalization after adjustment for weather conditions, including daily maximum and minimum temperatures as well as average relative humidity. Similar results were obtained by using locally weighted smoothing functions (LOESS) with default convergence criteria and by using natural cubic splines with a more stringent setting. Exposures to nitrogen dioxide were found to be significantly and positively associated with asthma hospitalization for males in the low socioeconomic group but not in the high socioeconomic group. For females, this same pattern of association was observed for exposures to sulfur dioxide. No significantly positive associations were found between carbon monoxide and ozone and asthma hospitalization in either low or high socioeconomic groups.
Air pollution and premature death are important public health concerns. Analyses have repeatedly demonstrated that airborne particles are associated with increased mortality and estimates have been used to forecast the impact on life expectancy. In this analysis, we draw upon data from the American Cancer Society (ACS) cohort and literature on utility-based measures of quality of life in relation to health status to more fully quantify the effects of air pollution on mortality in terms of quality-adjusted life expectancy. The analysis was conducted within a decision analytic model using Monte Carlo simulation techniques. Outcomes were estimated based on projections of the Canadian population. A one-unit reduction in sulfate air pollution would yield a mean annual increase in Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) of 20,960, with gains being greater for individuals with lower educational status and for males compared to females. This suggests that the impact of reductions in sulfate air pollution on quality-adjusted life expectancy is substantial. Interpretation of the results is unclear. However, the potential gains in QALYs from reduced air pollutants can be contrasted to the costs of policies to bring about such reductions. Based on a tentative threshold for the value of health benefits, analysis suggests that an investment in Canada of over 1 billion dollars per annum would be an efficient use of resources if it could be demonstrated that this would reduce sulfate concentrations in ambient air by 1 microg/m(3). Further analysis can assess the efficiency of targeting such initiatives to communities that are most likely to benefit.