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J Korean Med Sci. 2018 Aug 23;33(37):e251. doi: 10.3346/jkms.2018.33.e251. eCollection 2018 Sep 10.

Premature Deaths Attributable to Long-term Exposure to Ambient Fine Particulate Matter in the Republic of Korea.

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Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Suwon, Korea.
Department of Preventive Medicine, School of Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Korea.



Ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is the major environmental health risk factor in Korea. Exposure to PM2.5 has been a growing public concern nationwide. With the rapid aging of the Korean population, the health effects attributable to long-term exposure to PM2.5 were expected to increase further in the future. We aimed to estimate premature deaths attributable to long-term exposure to ambient PM2.5 in Korea.


A modelled estimation of long-term exposure to PM2.5 was used to calculate the nationwide exposure level. Hazard ratios of long-term exposure to PM2.5 were obtained from a large prospective cohort study in North America. Modified cause of death (CoD) data, which applied the garbage code reclassification algorithm, were used to calculate premature deaths attributable to long-term exposure to PM2.5.


From 1990 to 2013, the average population-weighted PM2.5 concentration in Korea was 30.2 μg/m3. The estimated number of premature deaths was 17,203 (95% confidence interval [CI], 11,056-22,772). The most common CoD was ischemic stroke (5,382; 3,101-7,403), followed by cancer of trachea, bronchus, and lung (4,958; 2,857-6,820), hemorrhagic stroke (3,452; 1,989-4,748), and ischemic heart disease (3,432; 1,383-5,358).


Premature deaths due to long-term exposure to PM2.5 accounted for 6.4% of all deaths in Korea. However, individual efforts alone cannot prevent the effects of air pollution. This disease burden study can serve as a basis for the establishment of government policies and budgets and can be used to assess the effectiveness of environmental health policies.


Air Pollution; Air Quality; Mortality; Particulate Matter; Premature Deaths

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