Human health risk in relation to air quality in two municipalities in an industrialised area of Northern Italy

Air quality is one of the major environmental issues related to human health, and people and authorities are increasingly aware and concerned about it, asking to be involved in decisions whose fallout can have consequences on their health. In this study, the authors provided quantitative data on the impact of air pollution on the health of people living in two small municipalities in a highly industrialised, densely populated area of Northern Italy. The authors applied the approach proposed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) using the AirQ 2.2.3 software developed by the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health, Bilthoven Division. Daily concentrations of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter of aerodynamic diameter e10 ím (PM10) and e2.5 ím (PM2.5) were used to assess human exposure and health effects in terms of attributable proportion of the health outcome, annual number of excess cases of mortality for all causes, and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Long-term effects were estimated for PM2.5 as years of life lost. Considering short-term effects, PM2.5 had the highest health impact on the 24,000 inhabitants of the two small towns, causing an excess of total mortality of 8 out of 177 in a year. Ozone and nitrogen dioxide each caused about three excess cases of total mortality. Results on long-term effects showed, respectively, 433, 180, and 72 years of life lost for mortality for all causes, cardiopulmonary diseases and lung cancer, in a year. The authors concluded that these finding are consistent with other reports of the impact of air quality on human health and the AirQ software seems an effective and easy tool, helpful in decision-making.

Authors: Fattore, Elena; Paiano, Viviana; Borgini, Alessandro; Tittarelli, Andrea; Bertoldi, Martina; Crosignani, Paolo; Fanelli, Roberto ;Full Source: Environmental Research 2011, 111(8), 1321-1327 (Eng) ;