Canadian Environmental Health Atlas

Understanding Our Environment is Key to Promoting Health and Preventing Disease

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Advancements in Understanding the Impact of Air Pollution on Health
Our understanding of the impact of air pollution on health has changed radically in the past 2 decades. Early studies examined health effects by assigning a single exposure to all people living in a city. Newer methods allow us to focus on health effects in smaller areas and compare the impact of air pollution on people living in different neighbourhoods.

Other advancements in air pollution research have been made by paying more attention to socioeconomic status (SES). Factors such as income, occupation, and education are known to play a part in exposure; people of lower socioeconomic status often live closer to roadways and industries where pollutants are generated. As well, people of lower SES may have an amplified response to these health hazards compared with people of higher SES.1 Alternatively, more educated people may exhibit some level of resistance to the effects of such health hazards.2 Our ability to couple ever-finer scales of exposure with socioeconomic status, can be expected to yield new insights into the pattern and impact of environmental hazards on human health.

  • 1. O'Neill MS, Jerrett M, Kawachi I, et al. Health, wealth, and air pollution: advancing theory and methods. Environ Health Perspect. 2003;111(16):1861-1870.
  • 2. House J, Lepkowski J, Kinney A, et al. 1994. The social stratification of aging and health. J Health Soc Behav. 1994;35: 213ā€“234.