Health Effects of Air Pollution: A Historical Review and Present Status

Nippon Eiseigaku Zasshi (Japanese Journal of Hygiene) Vol. 72 (2017) No. 3 p. 159-165

 
Abstract

During the 1960s, the concentrations of air pollutants, particularly that of sulfur dioxide (SO2), were extremely high in many industrial cities in Japan, and the prevalence of bronchial asthma and chronic bronchitis increased among residents living in the cities. To evaluate the effects of air pollution on respiratory diseases, many epidemiological studies were conducted, and the findings played an important role in the regulatory control of air pollution. After 1970, the concentration of SO2 has decreased markedly, and its adverse health effects have been minimized. On the other hand, the increasing automobile traffic in Japan has caused considerable increases in concentrations of air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM). The large-scale epidemiological studies conducted in Japan showed that traffic-related air pollution was associated with the development of asthma in school children and the persistence of asthmatic symptoms in preschool children. In recent years, however, the concentrations of NOx and PM have gradually decreased, since control measures based on the Automobile NOx/PM law were enforced in 2001. At present, the adverse health effects of airborne fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and photochemical oxidants have become a major concern. These air pollutants consist of not only emissions from primary sources but also secondary formations in air, and have spread worldwide. Both short- and long-term exposure to these air pollutants are reported to increase the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases in the population. Therefore, global efforts are necessary to reduce the health risk of these air pollutants.

 
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Editor: Juan C. Ivancevich, MD

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