Public Health England
Publication date: April 2014
The increase in mortality risk associated with long-term exposure to particulate air pollution is one of the most important, and best-characterised, effects of air pollution on health. This report presents estimates of the size of this effect on mortality in local authority areas in the UK, building upon the attributable fractions reported as an indicator in the public health outcomes framework for England. It discusses the concepts and assumptions underlying these calculations and gives information on how such estimates can be made. The estimates are expected to be useful to health and wellbeing boards when assessing local public health priorities, as well as to others working in the field of air quality and public health.
The estimates of mortality burden are based on modelled annual average concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in each local authority area originating from human activities. Local data on the adult population and adult mortality rates is also used. Central estimates of the fraction of mortality attributable to long-term exposure to current levels of anthropogenic (human-made) particulate air pollution range from around 2.5% in some local authorities in rural areas of Scotland and Northern Ireland and between 3 and 5% in Wales, to over 8% in some London boroughs. Because of uncertainty in the increase in mortality risk associated with ambient PM2.5, the actual burdens associated with these modelled concentrations could range from approximately one-sixth to about double these figures.
Thus, current levels of particulate air pollution have a considerable impact on public health. Measures to reduce levels of particulate air pollution, or to reduce exposure of the population to such pollution, are regarded as an important public health initiative.
Last reviewed: 9 April 2014