Accuracy of quantification of risk using a single-pollutant Air Quality Index

Lars Perlmutt, David Stieb, Kevin Cromar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Health risks associated with short-term exposure to ambient air pollution are communicated to the public by the US EPA through the Air Quality Index (AQI), but it remains unclear whether the current regulatory-based, single-pollutant AQI fully represents the actual risks of air pollution-related illness. The objective of this study is to quantify cardiovascular hospital admissions attributable to PM 2.5 at each AQI category. Based on National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), the highest AQI value among criteria pollutants (driver pollutant) is reported daily. We investigated excess cardiovascular hospital admissions attributable to fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) exposure from 2000 to 2010 in Bronx, Erie, Queens, and Suffolk counties of New York. Daily total, unscheduled cardiovascular hospital admissions (principal diagnosis) for individuals aged 20-99 years, concentration-response functions for PM 2.5, and estimated quarterly effective daily concentrations were used to calculate excess cardiovascular hospital admissions when PM 2.5 was reported as the driver pollutant and when PM 2.5 was not reported as the driver pollutant at each AQI category. A higher proportion of excess hospital admissions attributable to PM 2.5 occurred when PM 2.5 was the driver pollutant (i.e., ∼70% in Bronx County). The majority of excess hospital admissions (i.e., >90% in Bronx County) occurred when the AQI was <100 ("good" or "moderate" level of health concern) regardless of whether PM 2.5 was the driver pollutant. During the warm season (April-September), greater excess admissions in Suffolk County occurred when PM 2.5 was not the AQI driver pollutant. These results indicate that a single-pollutant index may inadequately communicate the adverse health risks associated with air pollution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-32
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology
Volume27
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

Keywords

  • Air Quality Index
  • air pollution
  • cardiovascular hospital admission
  • criteria pollutants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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