Study finds need for epidemiology in areas with air pollution

To learn more about the impacts of air pollution on human health, further studies must be done in areas where it is rampant and diverse, according to an article published in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health.  The piece, penned by Cathryn Tonne of the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL) in Barcelona, Spain, comments on a recent report that speculates that acute exposure to particulates present in air pollution heightens that risk of disease and death in low and middle-income countries (LMIC).

  • The previous study conducted by Katherine Newell and her team add even more to the growing evidence that link air pollution with each major organ system.
  • The article points out the limited studies that have been done regarding the effects of long-term pollution in LMICs. Ninety-one studies fit the criteria; however, only four investigated long-term effects of air pollution, and their results used particulate matter measuring 10 micrometers (PM10). Moreover, the noted studies were time-series studies and case-crossover studies that correlated daily levels of pollution and incidences of death or hospital admissions.
  • The previous research also highlights the scarcity of studies that link long-term exposure to PM2.5 particulates with cases of cardiorespiratory mortality and morbidity in areas beyond North America and Western Europe.
  • In particular, this lack of research in LMICs is one of the constraints of the Global Burden of Disease study in accurately determining how much does air pollution contribute to the development and spread of disease.
  • The article underscores the need for more "direct epidemiological evidence" between long-term exposure to air pollution and its effects on the human body. While the previous study evaluated the effects of short-term exposures, this may provide a limited explanation of how pollution fully impacts cardiorespiratory health.

Tonne propounds future studies to further analyze the relationship between long-term exposure to particulates and its effects on LMICs.

Journal Reference:

Tonne C. A CALL FOR EPIDEMIOLOGY WHERE THE AIR POLLUTION IS. The Lancet Planetary Health. 2017; 1:9. DOI:

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