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.