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Protecting Human Health From Air Pollution: Shifting From a Single-pollutant to a Multipollutant Approach

Dominici, Francescaa; Peng, Roger D.b; Barr, Christopher D.a; Bell, Michelle L.c

doi: 10.1097/EDE.0b013e3181cc86e8
Air Pollution: Opinion

To date, the assessment of public health consequences of air pollution has largely focused on a single-pollutant approach aimed at estimating the increased risk of adverse health outcomes associated with the exposure to a single air pollutant, adjusted for the exposure to other air pollutants. However, air masses always contain many pollutants in differing amounts, depending on the types of emission sources and atmospheric conditions. Because humans are simultaneously exposed to a complex mixture of air pollutants, many organizations have encouraged moving towards “a multipollutant approach to air quality.” Although there is general agreement that multipollutant approaches are desirable, the challenges of implementing them are vast.

From the aDepartment of Biostatistics, Harvard University School of Public Health, Boston, MA; bDepartment of Biostatistics, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD; and cYale University, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, New Haven, CT.

Editors' note: A commentary on this article appears on page 195.

Correspondence: Francesca Dominici, Department of Biostatistics, Harvard University School of Public Health, 655 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115. E-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.