Using epidemiology to estimate the impact and burden of exposure to air pollutants: Health effects of air pollution

Alison M. Gowers, Heather Walton, Karen Exley, J. Fintan Hurley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This paper focuses on the use of results of epidemiological studies to quantify the effects on health, particularly on mortality, of long-term exposure to air pollutants. It introduces health impact assessment methods, used to predict the benefits that can be expected from implementation of interventions to reduce emissions of pollutants. It also explains the estimation of annual mortality burdens attributable to current levels of pollution. Burden estimates are intended to meet the need to communicate the size of the effect of air pollution on public health to policy makers and others. The implications, for the interpretation of the estimates, of the assumptions and approximations underlying the methods are discussed. The paper starts with quantification based on results obtained from studies of the association of mortality risk with long-term average concentrations of particulate air pollution. It then tackles the additional methodological considerations that need to be addressed when also considering the mortality effects of other pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO 2). Finally, approaches that could be used to integrate morbidity and mortality endpoints in the same assessment are touched upon. This article is part of a discussion meeting issue 'Air quality, past present and future'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20190321
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2183
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2020


  • health impact assessment
  • morbidity
  • mortality burden
  • nitrogen dioxide
  • particulate air pollution
  • two-pollutant models


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