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Korean Journal of Preventive Medicine 2001;34(2): 109-118.
Issues in Air Pollution Epidemiologic Studies.
Eun Hee Ha, Ho Jang Kwon
Departement of Preventive Medicine, Ewha Womans University College of Medicine.
The purpose of this review is to discuss the debate concerning the interpretation of epidemiologic studies on particles and health effects. Study of the 1952 air pollution disaster in London established that very high levels of particulate-based smog can cause dramatic increases in daily mortality. However, recent epidemiologic studies have reported statistically significant health effects and mortality due to low levels of air pollution. The statistical significance does not prove causation in observational studies; therefore it is necessary to evaluate these associations. There are arguments for and against each of the numerous studies using Hill's criteria, however the body of accepted evidence supports the causal association. In particular, a high level of consistency in the estimated effect of PM10 has been observed across studies worldwide. The mechanism of the relationship between air pollution and health effects is not obvious. The mechanism of particle-induced injury may involve the production of an inflammatory response by the particulate. The harvesting and the threshold effect are also major concerns regarding the health effects of air pollution. However, current epidemiologic findings indicate that linear models lacking a threshold are appropriate for assessing the effect of particulate air pollution on daily mortality even at current levels.
Key words: Air pollution; Causal association; Biological mechanism; Harvesting; Threshold effect
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