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All-cause mortality and long-term exposure to low level air pollution in the ‘45 and up study’ cohort, Sydney, Australia, 2006–2015

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Background: Epidemiological studies show that long-term exposure to ambient air pollution reduces life expectancy. Most studies have been in environments with relatively high concentrations such as North America, Europe and Asia. Associations at the lower end of the concentration-response function are not well defined. Objectives: We assessed associations between all-cause mortality and exposure to annual average particulate matter <2.5 μm (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in Sydney, Australia, where concentrations are relatively low. Methods: The ‘45 and Up Study’ comprises a prospective longitudinal cohort from the state of New South Wales, Australia with 266,969 participants linked to death registry data. We analyzed data for the participants who resided in Sydney at baseline questionnaire (n = 75,268). Exposures to long-term pollution were estimated using annual averages from a chemical transport model (PM2.5), and a satellite-based land-use regression model (NO2). Socio-demographic information was extracted from the baseline questionnaire. Cox proportional hazard models were applied to estimate associations, while adjusting for covariates. Results: In our cohort mean annual PM2.5 was 4.5 μg/m3 and mean NO2 was 17.8 μg/m3. The mortality rate was 4.4% over the 7 years of follow up. Models that adjusted for individual-level and area-level risk factors resulted in a detrimental non statistically significant hazard ratio (HR) of 1.05 (95% CI: 0.98–1.12) per 1 μg/m3 increase in PM2.5, and 1.03 (95% CI: 0.98–1.07) per 5 μg/m3 increase in NO2. Conclusions: We found evidence that low-level air pollution exposure was associated with increased risk of mortality in this cohort of adults aged 45 years and over, even at the relatively low concentrations seen in Sydney. However, a clear determination of the association with mortality is difficult because the results were sensitive to some covariates. Our findings are supportive of emerging evidence that exposure to low levels of air pollution reduces life expectancy.




Hanigan, I. C., Rolfe, M. I., Knibbs, L. D., Salimi, F., Cowie, C. T., Heyworth, J., … Morgan, G. G. (2019). All-cause mortality and long-term exposure to low level air pollution in the ‘45 and up study’ cohort, Sydney, Australia, 2006–2015. Environment International, 126, 762–770.

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