Ambient PM2.5, O₃, and NO₂ Exposures and Associations with Mortality over 16 Years of Follow-Up in the Canadian Census Health and Environment Cohort (CanCHEC)

Environ Health Perspect. 2015 Nov;123(11):1180-6. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1409276. Epub 2015 Nov 1.


Background: Few studies examining the associations between long-term exposure to ambient air pollution and mortality have considered multiple pollutants when assessing changes in exposure due to residential mobility during follow-up.

Objective: We investigated associations between cause-specific mortality and ambient concentrations of fine particulate matter (≤ 2.5 μm; PM2.5), ozone (O3), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in a national cohort of about 2.5 million Canadians.

Methods: We assigned estimates of annual concentrations of these pollutants to the residential postal codes of subjects for each year during 16 years of follow-up. Historical tax data allowed us to track subjects' residential postal code annually. We estimated hazard ratios (HRs) for each pollutant separately and adjusted for the other pollutants. We also estimated the product of the three HRs as a measure of the cumulative association with mortality for several causes of death for an increment of the mean minus the 5th percentile of each pollutant: 5.0 μg/m3 for PM2.5, 9.5 ppb for O3, and 8.1 ppb for NO2.

Results: PM2.5, O3, and NO2 were associated with nonaccidental and cause-specific mortality in single-pollutant models. Exposure to PM2.5 alone was not sufficient to fully characterize the toxicity of the atmospheric mix or to fully explain the risk of mortality associated with exposure to ambient pollution. Assuming additive associations, the estimated HR for nonaccidental mortality corresponding to a change in exposure from the mean to the 5th percentile for all three pollutants together was 1.075 (95% CI: 1.067, 1.084). Accounting for residential mobility had only a limited impact on the association between mortality and PM2.5 and O3, but increased associations with NO2.

Conclusions: In this large, national-level cohort, we found positive associations between several common causes of death and exposure to PM2.5, O3, and NO2.

Citation: Crouse DL, Peters PA, Hystad P, Brook JR, van Donkelaar A, Martin RV, Villeneuve PJ, Jerrett M, Goldberg MS, Pope CA III, Brauer M, Brook RD, Robichaud A, Menard R, Burnett RT. 2015. Ambient PM2.5, O3, and NO2 exposures and associations with mortality over 16 years of follow-up in the Canadian Census Health and Environment Cohort (CanCHEC). Environ Health Perspect 123:1180-1186;

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Canada
  • Cause of Death
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / adverse effects*
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / analysis
  • Ozone / adverse effects*
  • Ozone / analysis
  • Particulate Matter / adverse effects*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter
  • Ozone
  • Nitrogen Dioxide