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Pneumologie. 2019 Jun;73(6):347-373. doi: 10.1055/a-0895-6494. Epub 2019 Jun 11.

[Breathing: Ambient Air Pollution and Health - Part II].

[Article in German; Abstract available in German from the publisher]

Author information

Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt, Institut für Epidemiologie, Neuherberg/München.
Institut und Poliklinik für Arbeits-, Sozial- und Umweltmedizin, Klinikum der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München; Comprehensive Pneumology Center Munich (CPC-M), Mitglied des Deutschen Zentrums für Lungenforschung (DZL), München.
Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Arbeitsbereich ambulante Pneumologie der Medizinischen Klinik mit Schwerpunkt Infektiologie und Pneumologie, Berlin.
Universität Bielefeld, Fakultät für Gesundheitswissenschaften, AG Umwelt und Gesundheit, Bielefeld.
Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Medizinische Fakultät, Institut für Arbeits-, Sozial- und Umweltmedizin, Düsseldorf.


in English, German

The second part of the DGP-statement on adverse health effects of ambient air pollution provides an overview of the current ambient air quality in Germany and its development in the past 20 years. Further, effects of air pollution on the cardiovascular system und underlying pathophysiological mechanisms are introduced. Air pollutants form a highly complex and dynamic system of thousands of organic and inorganic components from natural and anthropogenic sources. The pollutants are produced locally or introduced by long-range transport over hundreds of kilometers and are additionally subjected to local meteorological conditions. According to air quality regulations ambient air quality is monitored under uniform standards including immission of particulate matter, up to 2.5 µm (PM2.5) or 10 µm (PM10) in aerodynamic diameter, and of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) or ozone (O3). The clean air measures of recent years led to a continuous decline of air pollution in the past 20 years in Germany. Accordingly, the focus is nowadays directed at population-related health hazards caused by low concentrations of air pollution. Exceeded limits for sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, benzene and lead are not detected anymore. Also the number of days with increased ozone concentration declined, although the annual mean concentration is unaltered. Decreasing concentrations of particulate matter and NO2 have been observed, however, about 40 % of the monitoring stations at urban traffic sites still measure values exceeding current limits for NO2. Moreover, the stricter, solely health-based WHO-standards for PM2.5, PM10 and NO2 are still not met so that an optimal protection from air pollution-related health hazards is currently not given for the German population. In recent years, the findings of numerous cross-sectional and longitudinal studies underscored adverse effects of air pollution on the cardiovascular system, especially for particulate matter, although the level of evidence still varies for the different health outcomes. Further, the studies show that cardiovascular health hazards on the population level are of higher relevance than those for the respiratory system. The existing evidence for cardiovascular mortality, hospitalization, ischemic heart diseases, myocardial infarction and stroke can be regarded as strong, while that for heart failure is rather moderate. While the evidence for air pollution-related short-term alteration of the cardiac autonomic balance can be considered as sufficient, long-term effects are still unclear. Likewise, the heterogeneous findings on air pollution-related arrhythmia do currently not allow a distinct conclusion in this regard. A large number of studies support the observation that both, short- and long-term air pollution exposure contribute to increased blood pressure, may impair vascular homeostasis, induce endothelial dysfunction and promote the progression of atherosclerotic lesions. These effects provide reasonable biological explanation for the fatal events associated with exposure to air pollution. Short-term exposure may not pose a significant risk on healthy individuals but may be considered as precursor for fatal events in susceptible populations, while repetitive or long-term exposure may contribute to the development of cardiovascular diseases even in healthy subjects.

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