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Burns, J.; Boogaard, H.; Polus, S.; Pfadenhauer, Lisa Maria ORCID: 0000-0001-5038-8072; Rohwer, A. C.; Erp, A. M. van; Turley, R.; Rehfuess, Eva Annette (2020): Interventions to reduce ambient air pollution and their effects on health: An abridged Cochrane systematic review. In: Environment International, Vol. 135, 105400
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BACKGROUND A broad range of interventions have been implemented to improve ambient air quality, and many of these have been evaluated. Yet to date no systematic review has been conducted to identify and synthesize these studies. In this systematic review, we assess the effectiveness of interventions in reducing ambient particulate matter air pollution and improving adverse health outcomes. METHODS We searched a range of electronic databases across multiple disciplines, as well as grey literature databases, trial registries, reference lists of included studies and the contents of relevant journals, through August 2016. Eligible for inclusion were randomized and cluster randomized controlled trials, as well as several non-randomized study designs often used for evaluating air quality interventions. We included studies that evaluated interventions targeting industrial, residential, vehicular and multiple sources, with respect to their effect on mortality, morbidity and the concentrations of particulate matter (PM - including PM10, PM2.5, coarse particulate matter and combustion-related PM), as well as several criteria pollutants, including ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide and sulphur dioxide. We did not restrict studies based on the population, setting or comparison. Two authors independently assessed studies for inclusion, extracted data and assessed risk of bias. We assessed risk of bias using the Graphic Appraisal Tool for Epidemiological studies (GATE) for correlation studies, as modified and employed by the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. We synthesized evidence narratively, as well as graphically using harvest plots. We assessed the certainty of evidence using the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) system. RESULTS We included 42 studies assessing 38 unique interventions. These comprised a heterogeneous mix of interventions, including those aiming to address industrial sources (n~=~5; e.g. the closure of a factory), residential sources (n~=~7; e.g. coal ban), vehicular sources (n~=~22; e.g. low emission zones), and multiple sources (n~=~4; e.g. tailored measures that target both local traffic and industrial polluters). Evidence for effectiveness was mixed. Most included studies observed either no significant association or an association favoring the intervention, with little evidence that the assessed interventions might be harmful. CONCLUSIONS Given the heterogeneity across interventions, outcomes, and methods, it was difficult to derive overall conclusions regarding the effectiveness of interventions in terms of improved air quality or health. Some evidence suggests that interventions are associated with improvements in air quality and human health, with very little evidence suggesting interventions were harmful. The evidence base highlights the challenges related to establishing the effectiveness of specific air pollution interventions on outcomes. It also points to the need for improved study design and analysis methods, as well as more uniform evaluations. The prospective planning of evaluations and an evaluation component built into the design and implementation of interventions may also be particularly beneficial.