Long-term Fine Particulate Matter Exposure and Nonaccidental and Cause-specific Mortality in a Large National Cohort of Chinese Men

Environ Health Perspect. 2017 Nov 7;125(11):117002. doi: 10.1289/EHP1673.


Background: Cohort studies in North America and western Europe have reported increased risk of mortality associated with long-term exposure to fine particles (PM2.5), but to date, no such studies have been reported in China, where higher levels of exposure are experienced.

Objectives: We estimated the association between long-term exposure to PM2.5 with nonaccidental and cause-specific mortality in a cohort of Chinese men.

Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study of 189,793 men 40 y old or older during 1990-91 from 45 areas in China. Annual average PM2.5 levels for the years 1990, 1995, 2000, and 2005 were estimated for each cohort location using a combination of satellite-based estimates, chemical transport model simulations, and ground-level measurements developed for the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2013 study. A Cox proportional hazards regression model was used to estimate hazard ratios (HR) for nonaccidental cardiovascular disease (CVD), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung-cancer mortality. We also assessed the shape of the concentration-response relationship and compared the risk estimates with those predicted by Integrated Exposure-Response (IER) function, which incorporated estimates of mortality risk from previous cohort studies in western Europe and North America.

Results: The mean level of PM2.5 exposure during 2000-2005 was 43.7 μg/m3 (ranging from 4.2 to 83.8 μg/m3). Mortality HRs (95% CI) per 10-μg/m3 increase in PM2.5 were 1.09 (1.08, 1.09) for nonaccidental causes; 1.09 (1.08, 1.10) for CVD, 1.12 (1.10, 1.13) for COPD; and 1.12 (1.07, 1.14) for lung cancer. The HR estimate from our cohort was consistently higher than IER predictions.

Conclusions: Long-term exposure to PM2.5 was associated with nonaccidental, CVD, lung cancer, and COPD mortality in China. The IER estimator may underestimate the excess relative risk of cause-specific mortality due to long-term exposure to PM2.5 over the exposure range experienced in China and other low- and middle-income countries. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP1673.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • China / epidemiology
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Particulate Matter*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / mortality


  • Particulate Matter