Imperial College London

HEI report finds link between adverse health effects and traffic pollution


Traffic jam

Researchers from the Environmental Research group have contributed to the latest report from the Health Effects Institute (HEI).

The report found growing confidence in the links between several adverse health effects and Traffic Related Air Pollution (TRAP). 

The HEI panel on the health effects of long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution was co-chaired by Professor Francesco Forastiere, Visiting Professor in the Environmental Research Group. The panel reviewed more than 350 traffic studies spanning forty years (1980-2019). 

Professor Francesco Forastiere said: “The HEI Traffic Review has been a monumental work to collect, analyse, and make a synthesis of all the epidemiological evidence regarding the effects of long-term exposure to traffic related air pollution on various morbidity and mortality outcomes. The effort has been on a transparent and complete evidence evaluation.

“Several outcomes, including mortality as well as asthma and acute respiratory infections, were considered related to traffic air pollution with high confidence. This exposure remains a large and preventable health risk that deserves policy intervention."

The panel found a high level of confidence that strong connections exist between TRAP and early death due to cardiovascular diseases. A strong link was also found between TRAP and lung cancer mortality, asthma onset in children and adults, and acute lower respiratory infections in children.

Professor Frank Kelly and Dr Julia Fussell from the Environmental Research Group were both consultants to the panel.

Dr Julia Fussell, Senior Research Fellow, said: “It was a great experience to play a part in the HEI’s new contribution to understanding the health effects of traffic related air pollution. The shelf life of this comprehensive review – and its uptake by decision makers around the world – deserves to be a long and substantial one." 

Professor Frank Kelly, Battcock Chair in Community Health and Policy, said: “As the number of road vehicles continues to increase across the world, traffic related air pollution remains an important public health concern and will do so for several decades to come.  Even with the increased penetration of vehicles with low tailpipe emissions of particulates there is ongoing concern about the unregulated emissions of particulates from road, brake, and tyre wear whose health impact needs to be better understood.

Find out more and read the full report on the Health Effects Institute website.


Jack Stewart

Jack Stewart
School of Public Health

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