A limited number of studies have addressed environmental inequality, using various study designs and methodologies and often reaching contradictory results. Following a standardized multi-city data collection process within the European project EURO-HEALTHY, we conducted an ecological study to investigate the spatial association between nitrogen dioxide (NO2), as a surrogate for traffic related air pollution, and ten socioeconomic indicators at local administrative unit level in nine European Metropolitan Areas. We applied mixed models for the associations under investigation with random intercepts per Metropolitan Area, also accounting for the spatial correlation. The stronger associations were observed between NO2 levels and population density, population born outside the European Union (EU28), total crimes per 100,000 inhabitants and unemployment rate that displayed a highly statistically significant trend of increasing concentrations with increasing levels of the indicators. Specifically, the highest vs the lowest quartile of each indicator above was associated with 48.7% (95% confidence interval (CI): 42.9%, 54.8%), 30.9% (95%CI: 22.1%, 40.2%), 19.8% (95%CI: 13.4%, 26.6%) and 15.8% (95%CI: 9.9%, 22.1%) increase in NO2 respectively. The association with population density most probably reflects the higher volume in vehicular traffic, which is the main source of NO2 in urban areas. Higher pollution levels in areas with higher percentages of people born outside EU28, crime or unemployment rates indicate that worse air quality is typically encountered in deprived European urban areas. Policy makers should consider spatial environmental inequalities to better inform actions aiming to lower urban air pollution levels that will subsequently lead to improved quality of life, public health and health equity across the population.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Research was partly supported by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 643 , 398 (Euro-Healthy project).
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd
- Air pollution
- Nitrogen dioxide
- Socio-economic indicators