The association between daily mortality and ambient air particle pollution in Montreal, Quebec. 2. Cause-specific mortality

Environ Res. 2001 May;86(1):26-36. doi: 10.1006/enrs.2001.4243.


This study was undertaken to determine whether variations in concentrations of particulates in the ambient air of Montreal, Quebec, during the period 1984 to 1993, were associated with daily variations in cause-specific daily mortality. Fixed-site air pollution monitors in Montreal provided daily mean levels of various measures of particles and gaseous pollutants. Total sulfate was also measured daily (1986-1993) at a monitoring station 150 km southeast of the city (Sutton, Quebec). We used coefficient of haze (COH), extinction coefficient, and sulfate from the Sutton station to predict fine particles and sulfate from fine particles for days that were missing. We estimated associations between cause-specific mortality and PM(2.5), PM(10), predicted fine particles and fine sulfate particles, total suspended particles, coefficient of haze, extinction coefficient, and total sulfate measured at the Sutton station. We selected a set of underlying causes of death, as recorded on the death certificates, as the endpoint and then regressed the logarithm of daily counts of cause-specific mortality on the daily mean levels for the above measures of particulates, after accounting for seasonal and subseasonal fluctuations in the mortality time series, non-Poisson dispersion, weather variables, and gaseous pollutants. We found positive and statistically significant associations between the daily measures of ambient particle mass and sulfate mass and the deaths from respiratory diseases and diabetes. The mean percentage change in daily mortality (MPC), evaluated at the interquartile range for pollutants averaged over the day of death and the preceding 2 days, for deaths from respiratory diseases was MPC(COH)=6.90% (95% CI: 3.69-10.21%), MPC(Predicted PM2.5)= 9.03% (95% CI: 5.83- 12.33%), and MPC(Sutton sulfate)=4.64% (95% CI: 2.46-6.86%). For diabetes, the corresponding estimates were MPC(COH)=7.50% (95% CI: 1.96-13.34%), MPC(Predicted PM2.5)=7.59% (95% CI: 2.36-13.09%), and MPC(Sutton sulfate)=4.48% (95% CI: 1.08-7.99%). Among individuals older than 65 years at time of death, we found consistent associations across our metrics of particles for neoplasms and coronary artery diseases. Associations with sulfate mass were also found among elderly persons who died of cardiovascular diseases and of lung cancer. These associations were consistent with linear relationships. The associations found for respiratory diseases and for cardiovascular diseases, especially in the elderly, are in line with some of the current hypotheses regarding mechanisms by which ambient particles may increase daily mortality. The positive associations found for cancer and for diabetes may be understood through a general hypothesis proposed by Frank and Tankersley, who suggested that persons in failing health may be at higher risk for external insults through the failure of regulating physiological set points. The association with diabetes may be interpreted in light of recent toxicological findings that inhalation of urban particles in animals increases blood pressure and plasmatic levels of endothelins that enhance vasoconstriction and alter electrophysiology. Further research to confirm these findings and to determine whether they are causal is warranted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Coronary Disease / mortality
  • Diabetes Mellitus / mortality
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Mortality*
  • Quebec / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / mortality
  • Sulfates / analysis*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Sulfates