Health effects of particulate air pollution: time for reassessment?
Numerous studies have observed health effects of particulate air pollution. Compared to early studies that focused on severe air pollution episodes, recent studies are more relevant to understanding health effects of pollution at levels common to contemporary cities in the developed world. We review recent epidemiologic studies that evaluated health effects of particulate air pollution and conclude that respirable particulate air pollution is likely an important contributing factor to respiratory disease. Observed health effects include increased respiratory symptoms, decreased lung function, increased hospitalizations and other health care visits for respiratory and cardiovascular disease, increased respiratory morbidity as measured by absenteeism from work or school or other restrictions in activity, and increased cardiopulmonary disease mortality. These health effects are observed at levels common to many U.S. cities including levels below current U.S. National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate air pollution.