A paper co-authored by IES scientists F. Dentener and R. Van Dingenen, entitled ‘Exposure Assessment for Estimation of the Global Burden of Disease Attributable to Outdoor Air Pollution’, has been selected by the Environmental Science & Technology journal as its Best Science Paper of 2012.
The paper estimates the exposure of the Earth’s entire human population to outdoor fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone, to help estimate the disease burden attributable to outdoor air pollution. Ambient air pollution is associated with numerous adverse health impacts, such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory diseases. While previous assessments of global attributable disease burden have been limited to urban areas, covering only about half of the world’s population, this paper combined new developments and sources of information to also account for rural areas.
Using recent developments in remote sensing, global chemical-transport models, and improvements in coverage of surface measurements, the authors mapped global estimates of long-term average ambient concentrations of PM2.5 and ozone at 0.1° × 0.1° spatial resolution for 1990 and 2005.
Estimated 2005 annual average PM2.5 concentrations (μg/m3).
They found that, in 2005, 89% of the world’s population lived in areas where the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Air Quality Guideline of 10 µg/m3 PM2.5 (annual average) was exceeded. Globally, 32% of the population lived in areas exceeding the WHO Level 1 Interim Target of 35 µg/m3, mainly in East and South Asia. The highest seasonal ozone levels were found in North and Latin America, Europe, South and East Asia, and parts of Africa. Between 1990 and 2005 a 6% increase in global population-weighted PM2.5 and a 1% decrease in global population-weighted ozone concentrations was apparent, highlighted by increased concentrations in East, South, and Southeast Asia and decreases in North America and Europe.
Combined with spatially resolved population distributions, these estimates expand the evaluation of the global health burden associated with outdoor air pollution. Their application to both urban and rural regions is a major enhancement compared to earlier estimates that were restricted to large urban areas.