Particulate air pollution a growing risk for premature CVD death and disability worldwide

Aug. 21, 2023
A new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found consistent increases yet variable differences in the rate of premature CVD death and disability due to particulate matter air pollution around the world.

The impact of particulate matter air pollution on death and disability is on the rise worldwide, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access, peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association.

The researchers analyzed particulate matter (PM) pollution as a risk factor for death and disability using freely available data from 204 countries collected between 1990 and 2019 and detailed in the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study. Exposure to PM pollution was estimated using a tool from the 2019 update to the GBD study that incorporated information from satellite and ground-level monitoring, computer models of chemicals in the atmosphere and land-use data.

The investigators analyzed changes over time in years of life lost due to premature death (YLLs), years lived with disability (YLDs) and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). DALYs is a measure that considers both the loss of life and the impact on quality of life to assess the full impact of a health condition on a population. The cardiovascular disease burden was assessed both overall and with age standardization, which compares health outcomes across a population with a wide range of ages.

The analysis found:

  • The total number of premature deaths and years of cardiovascular disability from cardiovascular diseases attributable to PM air pollution rose from 2.6 million in 1990 to 3.5 million in 2019, a 31% worldwide increase.
  • The increase in overall deaths was unevenly distributed, with a 43% increase among men compared to a 28.2% increase among women.
  • Between 1990 and 2019, there was a 36.7% decrease in age-standardized premature deaths attributed to PM pollution, meaning that while fewer people had died from cardiovascular disease, people are living longer with disability.
  • Regions with higher socioeconomic conditions had the lowest number of lost years of life due to cardiovascular disease attributed to PM pollution, yet also the highest number of years lived with disability. The opposite was true in regions with lower socioeconomic conditions, with more lives lost and fewer years lived with disability.
  • Between 1990 and 2019, changes in the cardiovascular impact of PM pollution differed between men and women. In all measures, increases in disability and death from ambient PM air pollution were higher in men than women, while declines in disability and death from household PM air pollution were lower in women than men.

The researchers also found that between 1990 and 2019, age-standardized CVD death and disability attributed to outdoor PM pollution rose by 8.1%, while age-standardized cardiovascular death and disability attributed to household PM pollution, which is produced by solid cooking fuels such as coal, charcoal, crop residue, dung and wood, fell by 65.4%.

American Heart Association release on Newswise