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Single Pollutant Versus Surrogate Measure Approaches: Do Single Pollutant Risk Assessments Underestimate the Impact of Air Pollution on Lung Cancer Risk?

Röösli, Martin PhD; Künzli, Nino MD, PhD; Schindler, Christian PhD; Theis, Gaston PhD; Oglesby, Lucy PhD; Mathys, Patrick PhD; Camenzind, Markus; Braun-Fahrländer, Charlotte Prof. MD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: July 2003 - Volume 45 - Issue 7 - p 715-723
doi: 10.1097/01.jom.0000079082.33909.c2
Original Articles

Cancer risk as a result of air pollution may be quantified by different approaches. We compared the sum of unit risk based effects of single pollutants with an epidemiology-based method by using PM 10 as a surrogate of the total air pollution. The excess rate for lung cancer cases attributable to an increase of 10 μg/m3 in average PM 10 exposure was estimated from available cohort studies. Applying the epidemiology-based risk method to the air pollution situation in the Basel area (Switzerland) resulted in 13.3 (95% CI = 6.9–19.8) excess lung cancer cases per 100,000 person years. This estimate was considerably higher than the unit risk-based estimate yielding 1.1 (range, 0.45–2.8) cancer cases per 100,000 person years. We discuss these discrepancies in light of inherent differences between approaches in toxicology and epidemiology.

From the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Basel (Dr Röösli, Dr Künzli, Dr Shindler, Dr Oglesby, Dr Braun-Fahrländer); Air Quality Management Agency of Basel (Dr Theis, Dr Camenzind); and Institute for Mineralogy and Petrography, University of Basel (Dr Mathys), Basel, Switzerland.

Address correspondence to: Martin Röösli, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Berne, Finkenhubelweg 11, CH-3012 Berne, Switzerland; E-mail:

Current address of Dr Künzli: Associate Professor at Keck School of Medicine University of Southern California, 1540 Alcazar, CHP 236, Los Angeles, CA 90033.

Current address of Dr Mathys: Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, 3003 Bern.

©2003The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine