Estimates and 25-year trends of the global burden of disease attributable to ambient air pollution

Cohen, A, J, Brauer, M, Burnett, R et al, The Lancet, Volume 389, No. 10082, p1907–1918, 13 May 2017

The following study has been published in the Lancet ‘Estimates and 25-year trends of the global burden of disease attributable to ambient air pollution: an analysis of data from the Global Burden of Diseases Study 2015’.

Background
Exposure to ambient air pollution increases mortality and morbidity and shortens life expectancy. The Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2015 (GBD 2015) estimated the burden of disease attributable to 79 risk factors in 195 countries from 1990 to 2015. GBD 2015 identified air pollution as a leading cause of global disease burden, especially in low-income and middle-income countries.

In view of the important role of public policy in mitigating this risk and the potential for substantial health benefits related to efforts to reduce emissions of climate-forcing agents, the researchers explored spatial and temporal trends in mortality and burden of disease attributable to ambient air pollution from 1990 to 2015 at global, regional, and country levels.

Conclusions
The Authors conclude that ambient air pollution contributes substantially to the global burden of disease, which has increased over the past 25 years, as a result of both demographic and epidemiological trends and increasing levels of air pollution in low-income and middle-income countries. Should these trends continue, major reductions in pollution levels will be needed to avoid increases in disease burden.

As a result, the challenges for future reductions in the burden of disease attributable to air pollution are substantial. For example, using earlier attributable burden estimates and future mortality predictions. Exposure to ambient air pollution and its associated burden of disease can potentially be lowered for entire populations via policy action at the national and subnational levels. As the experience in the USA suggests, changes in ambient particulate matter (PM) associated with aggressive air quality management programmes, focused on major sources of air pollution including coal combustion, household burning of solid fuels, and road transport, can lead to increased life expectancy over short timeframes.

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