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Your Environment. Your Health.

Reducing Air Pollution Continues to Increase Life Expectancy

Francesca Dominici, Ph.D., Douglas Dockery, Sc.D., Andrew Correia
Harvard School of Public Health
NIEHS Grants R01ES019560, R01ES012054, P30ES000002, T32ES007142

NIEHS grantees report that air pollution reductions occurring from 2000 to 2007 were associated with improved life expectancy. These results show that the last decade of air pollution control continues to positively affect public health.

From 2000 to 2007, U.S. levels of particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) have declined, but at a slower rate than between 1980 and 2000. To find out if these levels continued to improve life expectancy the researchers looked at yearly average PM2.5 and life expectancy data for 545 rural and urban U.S. counties from 2000 to 2007. Controlling for socioeconomic status, smoking prevalence, and demographic characteristics, they found that the average life expectancy increased by 0.35 years for every 10 microgram per meter decrease in PM2.5 concentration (SD = 0.16 years, P = 0.033). The association between life expectancy and air pollution levels was stronger in more urban and densely populated counties.

A commentary on the study says that the findings provide support for continuing efforts to further decrease air pollution in the United States and globally, where some people experience much higher concentrations of particulate matter than in the United States.


Citation: Correia AW, Pope CA 3rd, Dockery DW, Wang Y, Ezzati M, Dominici F. 2013. Effect of air pollution control on life expectancy in the United States: an analysis of 545 U.S. counties for the period from 2000 to 2007. Epidemiology 24 (1):23-31.

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