Long-term air pollution effects on stroke incidence have not been examined extensively. We investigated the associations between ambient pollution and the incidence of stroke, as well as stroke subtypes, in a northern Canadian city surrounded by energy-sector pollution sources.
Stroke data from an administrative database from 2003 through 2007 were used to estimate annual incidence rates within small geographic regions within Edmonton, Canada. Air pollution levels for each region were estimated from continuous fixed-site monitoring stations in and around Edmonton. We fit models estimating stroke risk in relation to pollution levels; risks were adjusted for age, sex, income, social deprivation, and other factors.
Between 2003 and 2007, the average 5-year concentration of NO(2) and CO was positively associated with the incidence of stroke, particularly for hemorrhagic and nonhemorrhagic stroke subtypes (NO(2): hemorrhagic stroke relative risk=1.46; 95% CI, 1.19-1.80; nonhemorrhagic stroke relative risk=1.36; 95% CI, 1.19-1.56). However, these estimates of risk diminished after controlling for the ecological measures of income and deprivation. Adjustment for ecologically derived indices of smoking, hypertension, and body mass index did not alter the estimates of risk in any meaningful way.
Although long-term NO(2) and CO levels were positively associated with a higher incidence of stroke in the entire study area, the risk estimates were strongly attenuated by household income levels. Further research that incorporates individual-level risk factor data would improve our understanding of the relation of longer-term exposures to ambient air pollution and stroke outcomes.