Original Article

Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology (2016) 26, 125–132; doi:10.1038/jes.2015.65; published online 14 October 2015

Short-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution and daily mortality in London, UK

Richard W Atkinson1, Antonis Analitis2, Evangelia Samoli2, Gary W Fuller3, David C Green3, Ian S Mudway3, Hugh R Anderson1,3 and Frank J Kelly3

  1. 1Population Health Research Institute and MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health, St George's, University of London, Cranmer Terrace, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Medical Statistics, Medical School, University of Athens, Athens, Greece
  3. 3MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health, King's College London, Franklin-Wilkins Building, London, UK

Correspondence: Dr. Richard W. Atkinson, Population Health Research Institute and MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health, St George’s, University of London, Cranmer Terrace, London SW17 0RE, UK. Tel.: +44 20 8725 5174. Fax: +44 20 8725 3584. E-mail: atkinson@sgul.ac.uk

Received 15 May 2015; Revised 22 July 2015; Accepted 24 August 2015
Advance online publication 14 October 2015



Epidemiological studies have linked daily concentrations of urban air pollution to mortality, but few have investigated specific traffic sources that can inform abatement policies. We assembled a database of >100 daily, measured and modelled pollutant concentrations characterizing air pollution in London between 2011 and 2012. Based on the analyses of temporal patterns and correlations between the metrics, knowledge of local emission sources and reference to the existing literature, we selected, a priori, markers of traffic pollution: oxides of nitrogen (general traffic); elemental and black carbon (EC/BC) (diesel exhaust); carbon monoxide (petrol exhaust); copper (tyre), zinc (brake) and aluminium (mineral dust). Poisson regression accounting for seasonality and meteorology was used to estimate the percentage change in risk of death associated with an interquartile increment of each pollutant. Associations were generally small with confidence intervals that spanned 0% and tended to be negative for cardiovascular mortality and positive for respiratory mortality. The strongest positive associations were for EC and BC adjusted for particle mass and respiratory mortality, 2.66% (95% confidence interval: 0.11, 5.28) and 2.72% (0.09, 5.42) per 0.8 and 1.0μg/m3, respectively. These associations were robust to adjustment for other traffic metrics and regional pollutants, suggesting a degree of specificity with respiratory mortality and diesel exhaust containing EC/BC.


mortality; short-term associations; time-series analysis; traffic-related pollution