Is the air pollution health research community prepared to support a multipollutant air quality management framework?

Inhal Toxicol. 2010 Jun:22 Suppl 1:1-19. doi: 10.3109/08958371003793846.


Ambient air pollution is always encountered as a complex mixture, but past regulatory and research strategies largely focused on single pollutants, pollutant classes, and sources one-at-a-time. There is a trend toward managing air quality in a progressively "multipollutant" manner, with the idealized goal of controlling as many air contaminants as possible in an integrated manner to achieve the greatest total reduction of adverse health and environmental impacts. This commentary considers the current ability of the environmental air pollution exposure and health research communities to provide evidence to inform the development of multipollutant air quality management strategies and assess their effectiveness. The commentary is not a literature review, but a summary of key issues and information gaps, strategies for filling the gaps, and realistic expectations for progress that could be made during the next decade. The greatest need is for researchers and sponsors to address air quality health impacts from a truly multipollutant perspective, and the most limiting current information gap is knowledge of personal exposures of different subpopulations, considering activities and microenvironments. Emphasis is needed on clarifying the roles of a broader range of pollutants and their combinations in a more forward-looking manner; that is not driven by current regulatory structures. Although advances in research tools and outcome data will enhance progress, the greater need is to direct existing capabilities toward strategies aimed at placing into proper context the contributions of multiple pollutants and their combinations to the health burdens, and the relative contributions of pollutants and other factors influencing the same outcomes. The authors conclude that the research community has very limited ability to advise multipollutant air quality management and assess its effectiveness at this time, but that considerable progress can be made in a decade, even at current funding levels, if resources and incentives are shifted appropriately.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air / analysis
  • Air / standards*
  • Air Pollutants* / adverse effects
  • Air Pollutants* / analysis
  • Air Pollution* / adverse effects
  • Air Pollution* / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Health / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Environmental Health / methods
  • Environmental Health / standards*
  • Government Regulation
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Research*
  • United States
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency


  • Air Pollutants