Meta-analysis of adverse health effects due to air pollution in Chinese populations

BMC Public Health. 2013 Apr 18;13:360. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-360.


Background: Pooled estimates of air pollution health effects are important drivers of environmental risk communications and political willingness. In China, there is a lack of review studies to provide such estimates for health impact assessments.

Methods: We systematically searched the MEDLINE database using keywords of 80 major Chinese cities in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan on 30 June 2012, yielding 350 abstracts with 48 non-duplicated reports either in English or Chinese after screening. We pooled the relative risks (RR) per 10 μg/m3 of particulate matter (PM10), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and ozone (O3).

Results: For short-term effects, the pooled RR (p<0.05) ranges were: 1.0031 (PM10) to 1.0140 (NO2) for all-cause mortality, 1.0034 (cardiopulmonary, PM10) to 1.0235 (influenza and pneumonia, SO2) for 9 specific-causes mortality, 1.0021 (cardiovascular, PM10) to 1.0162 (asthma, O3) for 5 specific-causes hospital admissions. For birth outcomes, the RR (p<0.05) ranged from 1.0051 (stillbirth, O3) to 1.1189 (preterm-birth, SO2) and for long-term effect on mortality from 1.0150 (respiratory, SO2) to 1.0297 (respiratory, NO2). Publication bias was absent (Egger test: p=0.326 to 0.624). Annual PM10 and NO2 concentrations were inversely associated with RR of mortality (p=0.017-0.028).

Conclusions: Evidence on short-term effects of air pollution is consistent and sufficient for health impact assessment but that on long-term effects is still insufficient.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Cause of Death*
  • China / epidemiology
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Hong Kong / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / adverse effects
  • Ozone / adverse effects
  • Particulate Matter / adverse effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / etiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / mortality
  • Sulfur Dioxide / adverse effects
  • Taiwan / epidemiology


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter
  • Sulfur Dioxide
  • Ozone
  • Nitrogen Dioxide