Health Impact

Strong evidence shows links between exposure to fine particulate matter and respiratory illnesses, which include asthma, acute bronchitis, lung cancer, damage to nasal passages and respiratory tract inflammation. Exposure to fine particulate matter has also been connected to other illnesses including increased cardiovascular illness, damage to the central nervous system, inflammation, infections, influenza, reduced lung function, low birth weight, premature birth, impared lung development, and possible birth defects.


Previous studies have indicated that long-term or chronic exposure to PM2.5 has been linked to morbidity and mortality. Individual particles vary widely in composition and toxicology and there is also considerable epidemiological evidence to suggest a relationship between acute or short-term exposure to PM2.5 and increases in all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, and respiratory-related mortality. Both short and long term exposure to PM2.5 are noted to result in negative health impacts. Adverse health effects are observed in long-term exposure studies, even when exposure levels were below the current recommended WHO annual limit of 10µg/m3. Such findings highlight the need for the introduction of additional short-term limit values for PM to account for the health impacts of short term but relatively high exposures to particularly elevated PM near roads as a result of traffic emissions.


The recently published report from the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health for an extensive review of the health impact of exposure to air pollution across the course of a lifetime: