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Environ Health Perspect. 1997 June; 105(6): 614–620.
PMCID: PMC1470088
Research Article

The role of particulate size and chemistry in the association between summertime ambient air pollution and hospitalization for cardiorespiratory diseases.


In order to address the role that the ambient air pollution mix, comprised of gaseous pollutants and various physical and chemical measures of particulate matter, plays in exacerbating cardiorespiratory disease, daily measures of fine and coarse particulate mass, aerosol chemistry (sulfates and acidity), and gaseous pollution (ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide) were collected in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in the summers of 1992, 1993, and 1994. These time series were then compared with concurrent data on the number of daily admissions to hospitals for either cardiac diseases (ischemic heart disease, heart failure, and dysthymias) or respiratory diseases (tracheobronchitis, chronic obstructive long disease, asthma, and pneumonia). After adjusting the admission time series for long-term temporal trends, seasonal variations, the effects of short-term epidemics, day of the week effects, and ambient temperature and dew point temperature, positive associations were observed for all ambient air pollutants for both respiratory and cardiac diseases. Ozone was least sensitive to adjustment for the gaseous and particulate pollution measures. However, the association between the health outcomes and carbon monoxide, fine and coarse mass, sulfate levels and aerosol acidity could be explained by adjustment for exposure to gaseous pollutants. Increases in ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide equivalent to their interquartile ranges corresponded to an 11% and 13% increase in daily hospitalizations for respiratory and cardiac diseases, respectively. The inclusion of any one of the particulate air pollutants in multiple regression models did not increase these percentages. Particle mass and chemistry could not be identified as an independent risk factor for the exacerbation of cardiorespiratory diseases in this study beyond that attributable to climate and gaseous air pollution. We recommend that effects of particulate matter on health be assessed in conjunction with temporally covarying gaseous air pollutants.

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