Indoor air pollutants and health in the United Arab Emirates

Environ Health Perspect. 2012 May;120(5):687-94. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1104090. Epub 2012 Feb 22.


Background: Comprehensive global data on the health effects of indoor air pollutants are lacking. There are few large population-based multi-air pollutant health assessments. Further, little is known about indoor air health risks in the Middle East, especially in countries undergoing rapid economic development.

Objectives: To provide multifactorial indoor air exposure and health data, we conducted a population-based study of indoor air pollution and health in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study in a population-based sample of 628 households in the UAE. Indoor air pollutants [sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), formaldehyde (HCHO), carbon monoxide (CO), and particulate matter] were measured using passive samplers over a 7-day period. Health information was collected from 1,590 household members via in-person interviews.

Results: Participants in households with quantified SO2, NO2, and H2S (i.e., with measured concentrations above the limit of quantification) were twice as likely to report doctor-diagnosed asthma. Participants in homes with quantified SO2 were more likely to report wheezing symptoms {ever wheezing, prevalence odds ratio [POR] 1.79 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.05, 3.05]; speech-limiting wheeze, POR 3.53 (95% CI: 1.06, 11.74)}. NO2 and H2S were similarly associated with wheezing symptoms. Quantified HCHO was associated with neurologic symptoms (difficulty concentrating POR 1.47; 95% CI: 1.02, 2.13). Burning incense daily was associated with increased headaches (POR 1.87; 95% CI: 1.09, 3.21), difficulty concentrating (POR 3.08; 95% CI: 1.70, 5.58), and forgetfulness (POR 2.68: 95% CI: 1.47, 4.89).

Conclusions: This study provides new information regarding potential health risks from pollutants commonly found in indoor environments in the UAE and other countries. Multipollutant exposure and health assessments in cohort studies are needed to better characterize health effects of indoor air pollutants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution, Indoor*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Particle Size
  • Population Surveillance
  • Quality Control
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United Arab Emirates / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Air Pollutants