Epidemiologic evidence on the association between short-term exposure to ultrafine particles and mortality is weak, due to the lack of routine measurements of these particles and standardized multicenter studies. We investigated the relationship between ultrafine particles and particulate matter (PM) and daily mortality in eight European urban areas.
We collected daily data on nonaccidental and cardiorespiratory mortality, particle number concentrations (as proxy for ultrafine particle number concentration), fine and coarse PM, gases and meteorologic parameters in eight urban areas of Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Greece, between 1999 and 2013. We applied city-specific time-series Poisson regression models and pooled them with random-effects meta-analysis.
We estimated a weak, delayed association between particle number concentration and nonaccidental mortality, with mortality increasing by approximately 0.35% per 10,000 particles/cm3 increases in particle number concentration occurring 5 to 7 days before death. A similar pattern was found for cause-specific mortality. Estimates decreased after adjustment for fine particles (PM2.5) or nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The stronger association found between particle number concentration and mortality in the warmer season (1.14% increase) became null after adjustment for other pollutants.
We found weak evidence of an association between daily ultrafine particles and mortality. Further studies are required with standardized protocols for ultrafine particle data collection in multiple European cities over extended study periods.