Communicating Respiratory Health Risk

Among Children Using a Global Air Quality Index

+ Laura Gladson, Kevin Cromar


This article was written by Laura A. Gladson, Kevin R. Cromar, Marya Ghazipura, K. Emma Knowland, Christoph A.Keller, Bryan Duncan and published in Environment International.

Air pollution poses a serious threat to children’s respiratory health around the world. Satellite remote-sensing technology and air quality models can provide pollution data on a global scale, necessary for risk communication efforts in regions without ground-based monitoring networks. Several large centers, including NASA, produce global pollution forecasts that may be used alongside air quality indices to communicate local, daily risk information to the public. Here we present a health-based, globally applicable air quality index developed specifically to reflect the respiratory health risks among children exposed to elevated outdoor air pollution. Additive, excess-risk air quality indices were developed using 51 different coefficients derived from time-series health studies evaluating the impacts of ambient fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone on children's respiratory morbidity outcomes. A total of four indices were created which varied based on whether or not the underlying studies controlled for co-pollutants and in the adjustment of excess risks of individual pollutants. Combined with historical estimates of air pollution provided globally at a 25 × 25 km2 spatial resolution from the NASA's Goddard Earth Observing System composition forecast (GEOS-CF) model, each of these indices were examined in a global sample of 664 small and 140 large cities for study year 2017. Adjusted indices presented the most normal distributions of locally-scaled index values, which has been shown to improve associations with health risks, while indices based on coefficients controlling for co-pollutants had little effect on index performance. We provide the steps and resources need to apply our final adjusted index at the local level using freely-available forecasting data from the GEOS-CF model, which can provide risk communication information for cities around the world to better inform individual behavior modification to best protect children's respiratory health.


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Laura Gladson (M.S.) is a Ph.D. candidate in New York University's Environmental Health Sciences department and a researcher with the Health, Environment, and Policy program at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management.

Kevin Cromar, Ph.D., is a program director at the Marron Institute of Urban Management and a Clinical Associate Professor of Environmental Medicine and Population Health at New York University Grossman School of Medicine.

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