A new multipollutant, no-threshold air quality health index based on short-term associations observed in daily time-series analyses

J Air Waste Manag Assoc. 2008 Mar;58(3):435-50. doi: 10.3155/1047-3289.58.3.435.


Air quality indices currently in use have been criticized because they do not capture additive effects of multiple pollutants, or reflect the apparent no-threshold concentration-response relationship between air pollution and health. We propose a new air quality health index (AQHI), constructed as the sum of excess mortality risk associated with individual pollutants from a time-series analysis of air pollution and mortality in Canadian cities, adjusted to a 0-10 scale, and calculated hourly on the basis of trailing 3-hr average pollutant concentrations. Extensive sensitivity analyses were conducted using alternative combinations of pollutants from single and multipollutant models. All formulations considered produced frequency distributions of the daily maximum AQHI that were right-skewed, with modal values of 3 or 4, and less than 10% of values at 7 or above on the 10-point scale. In the absence of a gold standard and given the uncertainty in how to best reflect the mix of pollutants, we recommend a formulation based on associations of nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and particulate matter of median aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 microm with mortality from single-pollutant models. Further sensitivity analyses revealed good agreement of this formulation with others based on alternative sources of coefficients drawn from published studies of mortality and morbidity. These analyses provide evidence that the AQHI represents a valid approach to formulating an index with the objective of allowing people to judge the relative probability of experiencing adverse health effects from day to day. Together with health messages and a graphic display, the AQHI scale appears promising as an air quality risk communication tool.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution*
  • Algorithms
  • Canada
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Environmental Health / standards*
  • Humans
  • Time Factors


  • Air Pollutants