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      Fine-Particulate Air Pollution and Life Expectancy in the United States

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      New England Journal of Medicine

      Massachusetts Medical Society

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          Abstract

          Exposure to fine-particulate air pollution has been associated with increased morbidity and mortality, suggesting that sustained reductions in pollution exposure should result in improved life expectancy. This study directly evaluated the changes in life expectancy associated with differential changes in fine particulate air pollution that occurred in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s. We compiled data on life expectancy, socioeconomic status, and demographic characteristics for 211 county units in the 51 U.S. metropolitan areas with matching data on fine-particulate air pollution for the late 1970s and early 1980s and the late 1990s and early 2000s. Regression models were used to estimate the association between reductions in pollution and changes in life expectancy, with adjustment for changes in socioeconomic and demographic variables and in proxy indicators for the prevalence of cigarette smoking. A decrease of 10 microg per cubic meter in the concentration of fine particulate matter was associated with an estimated increase in mean (+/-SE) life expectancy of 0.61+/-0.20 year (P=0.004). The estimated effect of reduced exposure to pollution on life expectancy was not highly sensitive to adjustment for changes in socioeconomic, demographic, or proxy variables for the prevalence of smoking or to the restriction of observations to relatively large counties. Reductions in air pollution accounted for as much as 15% of the overall increase in life expectancy in the study areas. A reduction in exposure to ambient fine-particulate air pollution contributed to significant and measurable improvements in life expectancy in the United States. 2009 Massachusetts Medical Society

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          Most cited references 17

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          Cardiovascular mortality and long-term exposure to particulate air pollution: epidemiological evidence of general pathophysiological pathways of disease.

          Epidemiologic studies have linked long-term exposure to fine particulate matter air pollution (PM) to broad cause-of-death mortality. Associations with specific cardiopulmonary diseases might be useful in exploring potential mechanistic pathways linking exposure and mortality. General pathophysiological pathways linking long-term PM exposure with mortality and expected patterns of PM mortality with specific causes of death were proposed a priori. Vital status, risk factor, and cause-of-death data, collected by the American Cancer Society as part of the Cancer Prevention II study, were linked with air pollution data from United States metropolitan areas. Cox Proportional Hazard regression models were used to estimate PM-mortality associations with specific causes of death. Long-term PM exposures were most strongly associated with mortality attributable to ischemic heart disease, dysrhythmias, heart failure, and cardiac arrest. For these cardiovascular causes of death, a 10-microg/m3 elevation in fine PM was associated with 8% to 18% increases in mortality risk, with comparable or larger risks being observed for smokers relative to nonsmokers. Mortality attributable to respiratory disease had relatively weak associations. Fine particulate air pollution is a risk factor for cause-specific cardiovascular disease mortality via mechanisms that likely include pulmonary and systemic inflammation, accelerated atherosclerosis, and altered cardiac autonomic function. Although smoking is a much larger risk factor for cardiovascular disease mortality, exposure to fine PM imposes additional effects that seem to be at least additive to if not synergistic with smoking.
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            Lung Cancer Cardiopulmonary Mortality and Long-term Exposure to Fine Particulate Air Pollution

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              Particulate air pollution as a predictor of mortality in a prospective study of U.S. adults.

              Time-series, cross-sectional, and prospective cohort studies have observed associations between mortality and particulate air pollution but have been limited by ecologic design or small number of subjects or study areas. The present study evaluates effects of particulate air pollution on mortality using data from a large cohort drawn from many study areas. We linked ambient air pollution data from 151 U.S. metropolitan areas in 1980 with individual risk factor on 552,138 adults who resided in these areas when enrolled in a prospective study in 1982. Deaths were ascertained through December, 1989. Exposure to sulfate and fine particulate air pollution, which is primarily from fossil fuel combustion, was estimated from national data bases. The relationships of air pollution to all-cause, lung cancer, and cardiopulmonary mortality was examined using multivariate analysis which controlled for smoking, education, and other risk factors. Although small compared with cigarette smoking, an association between mortality and particulate air pollution was observed. Adjusted relative risk ratios (and 95% confidence intervals) of all-cause mortality for the most polluted areas compared with the least polluted equaled 1.15 (1.09 to 1.22) and 1.17 (1.09 to 1.26) when using sulfate and fine particulate measures respectively. Particulate air pollution was associated with cardiopulmonary and lung cancer mortality but not with mortality due to other causes. Increased mortality is associated with sulfate and fine particulate air pollution at levels commonly found in U.S. cities. The increase in risk is not attributable to tobacco smoking, although other unmeasured correlates of pollution cannot be excluded with certainty.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                New England Journal of Medicine
                N Engl J Med
                Massachusetts Medical Society
                0028-4793
                1533-4406
                January 22 2009
                January 22 2009
                : 360
                : 4
                : 376-386
                Article
                10.1056/NEJMsa0805646
                3382057
                19164188
                © 2009
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