Air pollution, deprivation and health: understanding relationships to add value to local air quality management policy and practice in Wales, UK

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Abstract

Background

Air pollution exposure reduces life expectancy. Air pollution, deprivation and poor-health status combinations can create increased and disproportionate disease burdens. Problems and solutions are rarely considered in a broad public health context, but doing so can add value to air quality management efforts by reducing air pollution risks, impacts and inequalities.

Methods

An ecological study assessed small-area associations between air pollution (nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter), deprivation status and health outcomes in Wales, UK.

Results

Air pollution concentrations were highest in ‘most’ deprived areas. When considered separately, deprivation-health associations were stronger than air pollution-health associations. Considered simultaneously, air pollution added to deprivation-health associations; interactions between air pollution and deprivation modified and strengthened associations with all-cause and respiratory disease mortality, especially in ‘most’ deprived areas where most-vulnerable people lived and where health needs were greatest.

Conclusion

There is a need to reduce air pollution-related risks for all. However, it is also the case that greater health gains can result from considering local air pollution problems and solutions in the context of wider health-determinants and acting on a better understanding of relationships. Informed and co-ordinated air pollution mitigation and public health action in high deprivation and pollution areas can reduce risks and inequalities. To achieve this, greater public health integration and collaboration in local air quality management policy and practice is needed.

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