Urban Form, Air Pollution, and Health

Curr Environ Health Rep. 2017 Dec;4(4):491-503. doi: 10.1007/s40572-017-0167-7.


Purpose of review: Urban form can impact air pollution and public health. We reviewed health-related articles that assessed (1) the relationships among urban form, air pollution, and health as well as (2) aspects of the urban environment (i.e., green space, noise, physical activity) that may modify those relationships.

Recent findings: Simulation and empirical studies demonstrate an association between compact growth, improved regional air quality, and health. Most studies are cross-sectional and focus on connections between transportation emissions and land use. The physical and mental health impacts of green space, public spaces that promote physical activity, and noise are well-studied aspects of the urban environment and there is evidence that these factors may modify the relationship between air pollution and health. Urban form can support efforts to design clean, health-promoting cities. More work is needed to operationalize specific strategies and to elucidate the causal pathways connecting various aspects of health.

Keywords: Built environment; Sprawl; Urban planning; Walkability.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution / prevention & control*
  • City Planning*
  • Environment Design*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Transportation
  • Urban Health*


  • Air Pollutants