Health effects of air pollution

Health effects of air pollution have emerged as an important public health issue. For example, it is estimated that more than 300 million in the European Union are exposed to airborne particles above guidelines values. Particulate levels can be comparatively high in Sweden, partly as a result of widespread use of studded tires and wood for local heating. The air quality guidelines for particulate matter in Stockholm and other urban areas are substantially exceeded. This is all the more serious since epidemiological evidence indicates that the guidelines do not fully protect against serious adverse health effects. Important uncertainties still exist in the risk assessment, both in relation to adverse health effects following long- and short-term exposure to specific air pollution components and in the role of interactions.


We have developed a unique data base and methodology for detailed estimation of long-term exposure to ambient air pollution. Information on home-addresses during several decades is combined with historical emission databases and dispersion models to obtain annual mean levels of various air pollution components from different sources, primarily road traffic. The methodology has been utilized successfully for assessment of exposure to air pollution in several epidemiological studies, e. g. on asthma and allergy in children as well as on lung cancer and myocardial infarction.

Several ongoing projects focus on health effects of air pollution in children, primarily asthma, lung function disturbances and allergic sensitization. They are based on the BAMSE cohort including children followed from birth until 16 years of age. Other projects relate to cardiovascular diseases and mortality in a large adult cohort based in Stockholm. In addition, some studies focus on cardiovascular effects of short-term air pollution exposure, such as cardiac arrest. Collaboration within several international projects funded by the European Union facilitates combined analyses with a large number of other cohorts resulting in greatly enhanced power.


Stockholm County Council, University of Stockholm, Utrecht University, Helmholtz Center Munich, Imperial College London, etc.


  • The European Union
  • The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency
  • The Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research
  • The Swedish Heart and Lung Foundation
  • The Swedish Research Council Formas


Adjunct professor

Tom Bellander

Phone: +46-(0)8-524 800 03
Organizational unit: Environmental epidemiology

Professor/senior physician

Göran Pershagen

Phone: +46-(0)8-524 874 60
Organizational unit: Environmental epidemiology