Health Impacts and Air pollution ETC/ACC Technical Paper 2008/13

27 Jan 2009

Iulian Petchesi

An exploration of factors influencing estimates of air pollution impact upon the health of European citizens

The great diversity of environments and lifestyles across Europe poses a challenge when it comes to estimating Europe-wide consequences of air quality upon the population. The size of communities, the nature of economic activity, the pollutant of concern, the geographical location and more will all influence the effect air quality may have upon human health. Yet to date, estimations of health impact for the whole continent has utilised a restricted spatial resolution of air quality variability and simplified estimates of population distributions. The challenge is to identify the main factors which will modify current estimates, to quantify the magnitude of such modifications, and to estimate the resolution needed to appropriately accommodate this diversity.

This report addresses the following aspects: the spatial scale of assessment, the influence of meteorological differences at street level, the influence of daily intra-urban migration on exposure to air pollution, the comparative health effects of finer particulate air pollution, and the statistical description of the impact of particulates and of ozone.

Through case studies in Silesia, Athens, London and Oslo the report begins to contribute depth to our understanding of the impact of air quality upon health across Europe’s various environments.

Assessment at a finer spatial resolution is shown to increase the estimates of total exposure experienced by a population. Improving temporal resolution improves our use of spatial information through description of intra-urban temporal population movement. Estimated total exposure increases.
Commuting towards city centres, where concentrations are generally higher, is found to have real potential importance to exposure estimates. This typically means exposure to higher concentration brackets for a limited percentage of the population, rather than only longer exposure to existing brackets. The magnitude of the effect may translate into large absolute numbers across Europe as a whole.
When Europe-wide estimates are made, the numbers of total estimated premature deaths from exposure to PM2.5 approximates those already estimated to result from exposure to PM10. Indeed, it is found that for 10 Member States the Average Exposure Index lies above the 2015 binding value of 20 μg/m3, in 5 Member States it lies at or slightly below this level, whilst for 12 Member States the average exposure index is clearly below.

Prepared by: ETC/ACC members Kevin Barrett, Steinar Larssen, Ingrid Sundvor, Lise Fjellsbø, Maria Dusinka (NILU), Frank de Leeuw (PBL), Jaroslav Fiala, Jana Ostatnicka, Jan Horalek, Libor Cernikovsky (CHMI), Fotios Barmpas, Nicolas Moussiopoulos, Cristos Vlahacostas (AUTh)

Published by: ETC/ACC, December 2008, 48 pp.