New Model Provides Estimates for Global Disease Burdens from Air Pollution
May 2014 - Air pollution has become a part of modern living. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution, caused by things like automobiles, power plants, wood burning and industrial processes has been linked to cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and other diseases. Until recently, scientists did not have good data sets, or models to estimate the worldwide effects of air pollution, because the only extensive datasets were from pollution monitoring locations in North America and Europe. However, PM2.5 levels are different all over the world, and annual average levels range from 20-40ug/m3 in Texas to 80-130ug/m3 in China and India. A more comprehensive model was needed to estimate the worldwide impacts and the disease burden of this growing issue.
As part of the 2010 Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study, a team partially funded by EPA looked at smoking and secondhand smoke, ambient air pollution and indoor burning of solid fuels and combined these factors with what was already known about ambient air pollution. From this they were able to estimate relative risks of dying from ischemic heart disease, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and lung cancer over a range of exposures from low to high. While there is a wide range of risks that affect global health, this innovative model places air pollution among the top risk factors today, with the greatest impacts on people in the developing countries of Asia.