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Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Nov;116(11):1449-55. doi: 10.1289/ehp.11463. Epub 2008 Jul 10.

Climate change, tropospheric ozone and particulate matter, and health impacts.

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ESS, LLC, Alexandria, Virginia, USA.



Because the state of the atmosphere determines the development, transport, dispersion, and deposition of air pollutants, there is concern that climate change could affect morbidity and mortality associated with elevated concentrations of these gases and fine particles. We review how climate change could affect future concentrations of tropospheric ozone and particulate matter (PM), and what changing concentrations could mean for population health.


We review studies projecting the impacts of climate change on air quality and studies projecting the impacts of these changes on morbidity and mortality.


Climate change could affect local to regional air quality through changes in chemical reaction rates, boundary layer heights that affect vertical mixing of pollutants, and changes in synoptic airflow patterns that govern pollutant transport. Sources of uncertainty include the degree of future climate change, future emissions of air pollutants and their precursors, and how population vulnerability may change in the future. Given these uncertainties, projections suggest that climate change will increase concentrations of tropospheric ozone, at least in high-income countries when precursor emissions are held constant, which would increase morbidity and mortality. Few projections are available for low- and middle-income countries. The evidence is less robust for PM, primarily because few studies have been conducted.


Additional research is needed to better understand the possible impacts of climate change on air pollution-related health impacts. If improved models continue to project higher ozone concentrations with climate change, then reducing greenhouse gas emissions would enhance the health of current and future generations.


air pollution; climate change; health impacts; ozone; particulate matter

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