Scientific Research

Air Pollution and Health | Children and Air Pollution | India and Air Pollution

Data on Air Pollution

According to a January 16, 2016 Guardian (UK) article, “The latest scientific research published in the journal Nature, suggests that air pollution now kills more people a year than malaria and HIV combined, and in many countries accounts for roughly 10 times more deaths than road accidents.”  The Guardian further reports, “The new work, published in the journal Nature, is the first study to single out different outdoor air pollution sources and estimate the number of premature deaths they each cause, considering road traffic, fossil fuel power stations and other sources. The researchers used a detailed computer model of the global atmosphere to assess the impact of air pollution on different populations, including new information on how pollution affects people in China and India. Read the study in the September 17, 2015 issue of Nature Journal
(Vol 525)  The contribution of outdoor air pollution sources to premature mortality on a global scale

Statistical analysis of PM2.5 observations from diplomatic facilities in China:
The authors of this study demonstrate “that rooftop air-quality monitors installed at embassies and consulates [U.S. Embassy in Beijing and its consulates throughout China] can further our understanding of air quality and provide a rich, hourly-averaged, long-term data source for the academic community and decision-makers.”
Science Direct: Atmospheric Environment publication – June 2015

World Health Organization:  Ambient air pollution database by country and city. The database contains results of ambient (outdoor) air pollution monitoring from almost 1600 cities in 91 countries from 2008 to 2013

A collaboration between Yale and Columbia universities in the US, the EPI quantifies and numerically ranks the performance of a country’s environmental policies.
Environmental Performance Index

Air Pollution and Health

Long-Term Exposure to Fine Particulate Matter, Residential Proximity to Major Road and Measures of Brain Structure
A study [of people 60 years and older] by the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine has found that “Exposure to elevated levels of PM2.5 was associated with smaller total cerebral brain volume, a marker of age-associated brain atrophy, and with higher odds of covert brain infarcts. These findings suggest that air pollution is associated with insidious effects on structural brain aging even in dementia- and stroke-free persons.”
“Writing in the May 2015 issue of Stroke, researchers who studied more than 900 participants of the Framingham Heart Study found evidence of smaller brain structure and of covert brain infarcts, a type of “silent” ischemic stroke resulting from a blockage in the blood vessels supplying the brain.”
Stroke Magazine: May 2015

Health Impacts of Black Carbon
Presentation by Michael Brauer, The University of British Columbia
Anil Agarwal Dialogue 2015.
Poor in climate change: How the co-benefit agenda of short-lived climate pollutants can work for or against people and the planet.
India Habitat Centre, New Delhi: March 11, 2015

Economic and Political Weekly
New study by  by Michael Greenstone (UChicago), Janhavi Nilekani (Harvard), Rohini Pande (Harvard), Nicholas Ryan (Yale), Anant Sudarshan (UChicago), and Anish Sugathan (Harvard) finds that India’s toxic air is shortening most of the country’s lives (over 600 million people) by 3.2 years.
“Using a combination of ground-level in situ measurements and satellite-based remote sensing data, this paper estimates that 660 million people, over half of India’s population, live in areas that exceed the Indian National Ambient Air Quality Standard for fine particulate pollution. Reducing pollution in these areas to achieve the standard would, we estimate, increase life expectancy for these Indians by 3.2 years on average for a total of 2.1 billion life years. We outline directions for environmental policy to start achieving these gains.”
February 21, 2015
Lower Pollution, Longer Lives: Life Expectancy Gains if India Reduced Particulate Matter Pollution.

Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease: This study from University of Montana finds  that children with lifetime exposures to concentrations of air pollutants above the current U.S. standards, are at an increased risk for brain inflammation and neurodegenerative changes, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
January 29, 2015
Decreases in Short Term Memory, IQ, and Altered Brain Metabolic Ratios in Urban Apolipoprotein ε4 Children Exposed to Air Pollution

Translational Psychiatry Study
January 31, 2017

This study suggests that exposure to high levels of PM 2.5 may contribute to dementia. Women with a specific gene appear to be at greater risk than others. See New York Times coverage by Nicolas Bakalar, February 6, 2017

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) studyJanuary 15, 2014
Autism Spectrum Disorder and Particulate Matter Air Pollution before, during, and after Pregnancy: A Nested Case–Control Analysis within the Nurses’ Health Study II Cohort

This study “explores the association between maternal exposure to particulate matter (PM) air pollution and odds of ASD [Autism Spectrum Disorder] in her child, concluding that “higher maternal exposure to PM2.5 during pregnancy, in particular the third trimester, was associated with greater odds of her child having ASD.”

The World Health Organization
WHO Air Quality Guidelines

The World Health Organization
The review of evidence on health aspects of air pollution that support the current World Health Organization air quality standards and guidelines

The International Agency for Research on Cancer concludes that outdoor air pollution is a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths .
The Carcinogenicity of Outdoor Air Pollution (scientific publications on this topic from IARC)
press release announcing the findings

US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health: Environmental Health Perspectives Journal; July 19, 2011.
This paper looks at lung cancer and cardiovascular disease from smoking and ambient air pollution. Recent research indicates that the exposure-response relationship for CVD is nonlinear, with a steep increase in risk at low exposures and flattening out at higher exposures.
Lung cancer and cardiovascular disease mortality associated with ambient air pollution and cigarette smoke: shape of the exposure-response relationships.

US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health: JAMA, March 6, 2002. This study looked at exposure to particulate matter pollution and adverse health outcomes and concluded that long-term exposure to combustion-related fine particulate air pollution is an important environmental risk factor for cardiopulmonary and lung cancer mortality.
Lung cancer, cardiopulmonary mortality, and long-term exposure to fine particulate air pollution.

National Institute of Health (US) Clinical Trials on air pollution Database

Epidemiological Study on Effect of Air Pollution on Human Health (Adults) in Delhi. This 342 page report details a 3-year study of over 6,000 adults living in Delhi conducted by Chittranjan National Cancer Institute in Kolkata to 1) “assess air pollution related respiratory symptoms among the residents of Delhi; 2) to assess the degree of lung function impairment in persons chronically exposed to the city’s air; and 3) to explore the underlying mechanism of air pollution related pulmonary dysfunction at the cellular and subcellular level.  Among the findings were the following: increased respiratory symptoms, reduced lung function, increased prevalence of cellular lung reaction to air pollution, and increased hematological and immunological changes associated with air pollution, genotoxicity, and neurobehavioral symptoms.”  Central Pollution Control Board, Ministry of Environment & Forests. July 2012. Website:

Children and Air Pollution

United Nations Children’s Fund, October 2016
Clear the air for children: The impact of air pollution on children

This October 2016 UNICEF Report on the damage of toxic air quality on the health of children provides details of the unique vulnerabilities of children, “due both to their physiology as well as to the type and degree of their exposure.” Some points from the Executive Summary of the report…

  • Around 300 million children currently live in areas where the air is toxic – exceeding international limits by at least six times.
  • Poor children are among the most at risk
  • The benefits of reducing air pollution extend well beyond child health – actions and investments that reduce air pollution can also help grow economies and combat climate change.
  • Protecting children from air pollution requires actions to reduce air pollution, reduce children’s exposure to it and better monitor it.

US National Institute of Environmental Health Science
Environmental Health Perspectives Journal; April 2015 

Air Pollution and Neonatal Blood Pressure: Examining Earlier Exposures
“Ambient air pollution has been associated in some studies (but not all) with increased blood pressure in adults1 and children.2,3 A study in this issue of EHP examines even earlier exposures during gestation, an important period of cardiovascular growth and development.4 The results show a small but significant increase in newborn systolic blood pressure associated with exposure in the third trimester to black carbon (BC) and, to a lesser extent, fine particulate matter (PM2.5).”

The New England Journal of Medicine, March 5, 2015
Association of Improved Air Quality with Lung Development in Children 
“In this study conducted in five communities in the Los Angeles basin over three distinct periods beginning in 1994, the authors found an improvement in lung-function development in adolescence that occurred in concert with improvements in air quality.”

The National Bureau of Economic Research, November 5, 2014
The Impact of Short Term Exposure to Ambient Air Pollution on Cognitive Performance and Human Capital Formation
The effect of short-term air pollution exposure on standardized test scores among Israeli high school high-stakes tests (2000-2002) find that PM2.5 and CO levels exhibit a robust negative relationship with test scores.

Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, September 9, 2014
UM Study Finds Air Pollution Harmful to Young Brains. 
A small but interesting study of children in Mexico City concludes that ingesting particulate matter can threaten brain development.

Pediatrics: Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics
December 6, 2004

American Academy of Pediatrics: Ambient Air Pollution: Health Hazards to Children.
A policy statement summarizing the literature linking ambient air pollution to adverse health outcomes in children including a perspective on the US regulatory process and advice to pediatricians.

The New England Journal of Medicine: November 9, 2004
The effect of Air Pollution on Lung Development from 10-18 years of Age
The seminal long-term study of 5500 children in 12 communities in Southern California. The study looked at the effects of chronic air pollution exposures on the health of children and found that children exposed to higher levels of air pollution had significantly lower lung function at age 18, an age when the lungs are nearly mature and lung function deficits are unlikely to be reversed.

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (USA) newsletter, containing summaries of two new studies linking air pollution with asthma risk and behavioral problems

A 2008 UCLA article focusing on the impact of air pollution in California on pregnant women, babies, and young children. Evidence is accumulating that environmental exposures can cause infants to be born premature, low birth weight or to be born with certain birth defects.

India and Air Pollution

Journal of Environmental Science and Technology
American Chemical Society
December 3, 2014
The Discoloration of the Taj Mahal due to Particulate Carbon and Dust Decomposition

A 2010 study by the Chittaranjan National Cancer Research Institute, Kolkata, looked at the health effects of air pollution on over 11,000 school children in Delhi. Finding higher prevalence of respiratory illnesses and decreased lung capacity in the Delhi kids as opposed to the rural control group.

This 2010 study showed significantly decreased lung function in it’s healthy Indian study subjects when compared with healthy Indian-US born study subjects.

Global Differences in lung function by region (PURE): an international, community based perspective. This study compared lung tests taken in 38,517 healthy nonsmokers from 17 countries who were matched by height, age and sex. The South Asian’s study subject’s lung function was 31.3% lower compared to North American’s and European’s.

List of research publications from the Chest Research Foundation, Pune India