Exposure to Traffic Pollution may Advance Mortality Rates by 2.5 Years

Posted on 7 January 2020

The dangers of chronic exposure to air pollution are well established, and can have a significant impact on lifespan. Indeed, the impact of exposure to particulates in pollution has been estimated as comparable to being moderately overweight.

This study from 2004 measured the impact of traffic pollution on mortality rates based on a sample of over 5000 people living close to busy roads. They found that the ‘ageing effect’ of living in such an area was approximately 2.5 years. In other words, people living close to a busy road have the same mortality rates as those 2.5 years older, living elsewhere.

When compared to other risk factors such as chronic pulmonary disease, the impact of pollution is striking. According to the World Health Organisation, 4.2 million deaths globally are associated with air pollution. Avoiding exposure to pollutants should therefore be an important lifestyle consideration.

Chronic exposure to air pollution is associated with increased mortality rates. The impact of air pollution relative to other causes of death in a population is of public health importance and has not been well established. In this study, the rate advancement periods associated with traffic pollution exposures were estimated. Study subjects underwent pulmonary function testing at a clinic in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, between 1985 and 1999. Cox regression was used to model mortality from all natural causes during 1992–2001 in relation to lung function, body mass index, a diagnosis of chronic pulmonary disease, chronic ischemic heart disease, or diabetes mellitus, household income, and residence within 50 m of a major urban road or within 100 m of a highway. Subjects living close to a major road had an increased risk of mortality (relative risk = 1.18, 95% confidence interval: 1.02, 1.38). The mortality rate advancement period associated with residence near a major road was 2.5 years (95% confidence interval: 0.2, 4.8). By comparison, the rate advancement periods attributable to chronic pulmonary disease, chronic ischemic heart disease, and diabetes were 3.4 years, 3.1 years, and 4.4 years, respectively.

Murray M. Finkelstein, Michael Jerrett, Malcolm R. Sears, Traffic Air Pollution and Mortality Rate Advancement Periods, American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 160, Issue 2, 15 July 2004, Pages 173–177


Traffic Air Pollution and Mortality Rate Advancement Periods: https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwh181

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