Long-term exposure to ambient NO2 and adult mortality: A nationwide cohort study in China


Introduction: A number of population-based studies have investigated long-term effects of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) on mortality, while great heterogeneities exist between studies. In highly populated countries in Asia, cohort evidence for NO2-mortality association was extensively sparse.

Objectives: This study aimed to quantify longitudinal association of ambient NO2 exposure with all-cause mortality in Chinese adults.

Methods: A national cohort of 30,843 adults were drawn from 25 provincial regions across mainland China, and followed up from 2010 through 2018. Participants’ exposures to ambient air pollutants were assigned according to their residential counties at baseline, through deriving monthly estimates from high-quality gridded datasets developed by machine learning methods. Cox proportional hazards models with time-varying exposures were utilized to assess the association of all-cause mortality with long-term exposure to ambient NO2. NO2-attributable deaths in China were estimated by province and county for years 2010 and 2018, with reference to the counterfactual exposure of 6.9 μg/m3 (the lowest county-level average in this cohort).

Results: We observed a total of 1662 deaths during 224020 person-years of follow-up (median 8.1 year). An approximately linear NO2-mortality relation (p = 0.273 for nonlinearity) was identified across a broad exposure range of 6.9-57.4 μg/m3. Per 10-µg/m3 increase in annual NO2 exposure was associated with an hazard ratio of 1.127 (95% confidence interval: 1.042-1.219, p = 0.003) for all-cause mortality. Risk estimates remained robust after additionally adjusting for the confounding effects of co-pollutants (i.e., PM2.5 or/and O3). In 2018, 1.65 million deaths could be attributed to ambient NO2 exposure (national average 17.3 µg/m3) in China, representing a decrease of 4.3% compared with the estimate of 1.72 million in 2010 (20.5 µg/m3).

Conclusion: This cohort study provided national evidence for elevated risk of all-cause mortality associated with long-term exposure to ambient NO2 in Chinese adults.

Authors: Yunquan Zhang, Zunyan Li, Jing Wei, Yu Zhan, Linjiong Liu, Zhiming Yang, Yuanyuan Zhang, Riyang Liu, Zongwei Ma
; Full Source: Journal of advanced research 2022 Nov;41:13-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jare.2022.02.007.