Health impact assessment of particulate pollution in Tallinn using fine spatial resolution and modeling techniques

Hans Orru, Erik Teinemaa, Taavi Lai, Tanel Tamm, Marko Kaasik, Veljo Kimmel, Kati Kangur, Eda Merisalu, Bertil Forsberg
Environmental Health 2009, 8: 7

BACKGROUND: Health impact assessments (HIA) use information on exposure, baseline mortality/morbidity and exposure-response functions from epidemiological studies in order to quantify the health impacts of existing situations and/or alternative scenarios. The aim of this study was to improve HIA methods for air pollution studies in situations where exposures can be estimated using GIS with high spatial resolution and dispersion modeling approaches.

METHODS: Tallinn was divided into 84 sections according to neighborhoods, with a total population of approx. 390,000 persons. Actual baseline rates for total mortality and hospitalization with cardiovascular and respiratory diagnosis were identified. The exposure to fine particles (PM2.5) from local emissions was defined as the modeled annual levels. The model validation and morbidity assessment were based on 2006 PM10 or PM2.5 levels at 3 monitoring stations. The exposure-response coefficients used were for total mortality 6.2% (95% CI 1.6-11%) per 10 microg/m3 increase of annual mean PM2.5 concentration and for the assessment of respiratory and cardiovascular hospitalizations 1.14% (95% CI 0.62-1.67%) and 0.73% (95% CI 0.47-0.93%) per 10 microg/m3 increase of PM10. The direct costs related to morbidity were calculated according to hospital treatment expenses in 2005 and the cost of premature deaths using the concept of Value of Life Year (VOLY).

RESULTS: The annual population-weighted-modeled exposure to locally emitted PM2.5 in Tallinn was 11.6 microg/m3. Our analysis showed that it corresponds to 296 (95% CI 76528) premature deaths resulting in 3859 (95% CI 10236636) Years of Life Lost (YLL) per year. The average decrease in life-expectancy at birth per resident of Tallinn was estimated to be 0.64 (95% CI 0.17-1.10) years. While in the polluted city centre this may reach 1.17 years, in the least polluted neighborhoods it remains between 0.1 and 0.3 years. When dividing the YLL by the number of premature deaths, the decrease in life expectancy among the actual cases is around 13 years. As for the morbidity, the short-term effects of air pollution were estimated to result in an additional 71 (95% CI 43-104) respiratory and 204 (95% CI 131-260) cardiovascular hospitalizations per year. The biggest external costs are related to the long-term effects on mortality: this is on average euro 150 (95% CI 40-260) million annually. In comparison, the costs of short-term air-pollution driven hospitalizations are small euro 0.3 (95% CI 0.2-0.4) million.

CONCLUSION: Sectioning the city for analysis and using GIS systems can help to improve the accuracy of air pollution health impact estimations, especially in study areas with poor air pollution monitoring data but available dispersion models.

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