Short-term effects of air pollution on hospital admissions of respiratory diseases in Europe: a quantitative summary of APHEA study results. Air Pollution and Health: a European Approach

Arch Environ Health. 1998 Jan-Feb;53(1):54-64. doi: 10.1080/00039899809605689.


The Air Pollution and Health: a European Approach (APHEA) project is a coordinated study of the short-term effects of air pollution on mortality and hospital admissions. Five West European cities (i.e., London, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Paris, Milano) contributed several years of hospital admissions data for all respiratory causes. In the current study, the authors describe the results obtained from the quantitative pooling (meta-analysis) of local analyses. The diagnostic group was defined by ICD 460-519. The age groups studied were 15-64 y (i.e., adults) and 65+ y (elderly). The air pollutants studied were sulfur dioxide; particles (i.e., Black Smoke or total suspended particles); ozone; and nitrogen dioxide. The pollutants were obtained from existing fixed-site monitors in a standardized manner. We used Poisson models and standardized confounder models to examine the associations between daily hospital admissions and air pollution. We conducted quantitative pooling by calculating the weighted means of local regression coefficients. We used a fixed-effects model when no heterogeneity could be detected; otherwise, we used a random-effects model. When possible, the authors investigated the factors correlated with heterogeneity. The most consistent and strong finding was a significant increase of daily admissions for respiratory diseases (adults and elderly) with elevated levels of ozone. This finding was stronger in the elderly, had a rather immediate effect (same or next day), and was homogeneous over cities. The elderly were affected more during the warm season. The Sulfur dioxide daily mean was available in all cities, and it was not associated consistently with an adverse effect. Effects were present in areas in which more than one station was used in the assessment of daily exposure. Some significant associations were observed, although no conclusion that related to an overall particle effect could be drawn. The effect of Black Smoke was significantly stronger with high nitrogen dioxide levels on the same day, but nitrogen dioxide itself was not associated with admissions. The ozone results were in good agreement with the results of similar U.S. studies. The coherence of the results of this study and other results gained under different conditions strengthens the argument for causality.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / etiology
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / mortality*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Admission / statistics & numerical data*
  • Seasons
  • Temperature
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*


  • Air Pollutants