Air Pollution Risk Tool
Improved healthcare through new air pollution risk tool
Source: Science for Environment Policy
Scientists have created a new, easy-to-use tool that allows health professionals to monitor the day-to-day risks posed by short-term exposure to main urban air pollutants. The tool could enable vulnerable groups, such as asthmatics, to take precautionary measures and to increase public awareness of the health impacts of air pollution, say the researchers.
Scientists estimate that in a typical urban environment, citizens are exposed to around 200 types of air pollutant. Concentrations of sulphur dioxide, fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone have been linked to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. As a result, regional authorities are increasingly interested in monitoring air quality in line with the EU Air Quality Framework Directive1.
According to the research conducted under the EU PASODOBLE project, although various indicators of air pollution already exist, many are not accompanied by adequate health advices nor related to specific pathologies. The scientists devised a rating system to predict whether the risk of an increase in a particular health defect, such as asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or ischemic heart disease, is low, moderate, high or very high for a given location at a given time.
The tool “Aggregate Risk Index” (ARI) is calculated from reference values (relative risk) for a given health endpoint, associated with an increase of each pollutant concentration, and are derived from health data collected during epidemiological studies. Relative risks are ideally computed for a specific region, and known as exposure-response functions, i.e. mortality rates and daily hospital admissions related to air pollution.
Using up-to-date data on emissions and background pollution levels, the PASODOBLE researchers intend to make daily, colour-coded ARI forecasts available online for given health defects. Health care professionals and regional authorities can then identify risk areas and disseminate health advices accordingly via radio, television, newspapers or the internet, say the researchers.
Primary Source: Sicard, P., Talbot, C. Lesne, O. et al. (2012). The Aggregate Risk Index: An intuitive tool providing the health risks of air pollution to health care community and public. Atmospheric Environment. 46: 11-16.