Chemical Composition of Fine Particulate Matter and Life Expectancy: In 95 US Counties Between 2002 and 2007

Epidemiology. 2015 Jul;26(4):556-64. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000000297.


Background: In a previous study, we provided evidence that a decline in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution during the period between 2000 and 2007 was associated with increased life expectancy in 545 counties in the United States. In this article, we investigated which chemical constituents of PM2.5 were the main drivers of the observed association.

Methods: We estimated associations between temporal changes in seven major components of PM2.5 (ammonium, sulfate, nitrate, elemental carbon matter, organic carbon matter, sodium, and silicon) and temporal changes in life expectancy in 95 counties between 2002 and 2007. We included US counties that had adequate chemical components of PM2.5 mass data across all seasons. We fitted single pollutant and multiple pollutant linear models, controlling for available socioeconomic, demographic, and smoking variables and stratifying by urban and nonurban counties.

Results: In multiple pollutant models, we found that: (1) a reduction in sulfate was associated with an increase in life expectancy; and (2) reductions in ammonium and sodium ion were associated with increases in life expectancy in nonurban counties only.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that recent reductions in long-term exposure to sulfate, ammonium, and sodium ion between 2002 and 2007 are associated with improved public health.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / chemistry*
  • Ammonium Compounds / analysis
  • Carbon / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy / trends*
  • Linear Models
  • Nitrates / analysis
  • Particulate Matter / chemistry*
  • Silicon / analysis
  • Sodium / analysis
  • Sulfates / analysis
  • United States


  • Air Pollutants
  • Ammonium Compounds
  • Nitrates
  • Particulate Matter
  • Sulfates
  • Carbon
  • Sodium
  • Silicon