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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

Rutgers Department Chair and Colleagues Craft Joint Policy Statement on the Health Effects of Air Pollution

Dr. Howard Kipen, interim chair and professor, and Dr. Robert Laumbach, Associate Professor, both in the department of environmental and occupational health at the Rutgers School of Public Health, and their colleagues constituted a committee that developed a joint policy statement for the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and the European Respiratory Society (ERS) on the health effects of air pollution. The statement, “A Joint ERS/ATS policy statement: what constitutes an adverse health effect of air pollution? An analytical framework,” was written to update earlier statements made by the ATS in 1985 and 2000. The new statement highlights the effects of outdoor air pollution on various body systems, such as the cardiovascular and neurological systems.

[Photo: Dr. Howard Kipen]

In recent decades, air pollution has become a growing global public health concern. The most recent Global Burden of Disease report lists outdoor air pollution as a leading cause of premature death and disability for more than 3 million people per year, worldwide. Disparities in outdoor air pollution exposure between developed nations and low- and middle-income nations are widening.  While pollutant levels have decreased in high-income countries, like the United States, they have increased in low- and middle-income countries like China and India.

Identification of adverse health effects of air pollution is critical to developing control and regulatory measures. Previous ATS statements have largely focused on the impact of air pollution on the respiratory system. Recent toxicological, clinical, and epidemiological research has shown that cardiovascular and neurological systems are also privy to negative health consequences in addition to the respiratory system. Additional research points to negative impacts on fetuses during gestation and infant health as well.

In the new statement issued by the ATS and ERS, Dr. Kipen along with co-leaders George Thurston (NYU) and Bert Brunekreef (U. Utrecht) created an updated statement encompassing recent research on the adverse health effects of outdoor air pollution on human health. The analytical framework created by this committee, focuses on the adverse effects of air pollution as they relate to the global burden of disease, effects on biomarkers of exposure and disease, population health effects, assessment of adverse health effects, and assessment of effects by organ system.

According to the committee, “systemic conditions are a new area of concern in which ample evidence for the effects of air pollution on biomarkers of systemic effects is available.” Dr. Kipen says “we have used an evidence-based analytical framework to highlight and identify new targets for adverse air pollution effects that builds on the 1985 and 2000 ATS statements.”

A Joint ERS/ATS policy statement: what constitutes an adverse health effect of air pollution? An analytical framework was published in the European Respiratory Journal.