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Department of Geography


Outdoor air pollution and stroke in Sheffield, United Kingdom: a small-area level geographical study

Research Team: Ravi Maheswaran, Robert P. Haining, Paul Brindley, Jane Law, Tim Pearson, Peter R. Fryers, Stephen Wise and Michael J. Campbell


Background and Purpose-Current evidence suggests that stroke mortality and hospital admissions should be higher in areas with elevated levels of outdoor air pollution because of the combined acute and chronic exposure effects of air pollution. We examined this hypothesis using a small-area level ecological correlation study.

Methods-We used 1030 census enumeration districts as the unit of analysis and examined stroke deaths and hospital admissions from 1994 to 1998, with census denominator counts for people 45 years. Modeled air pollution data for particulate matter (PM10 ), nitrogen oxides (NOx ), and carbon monoxide (CO) were interpolated to census enumeration districts. We adjusted for age, sex, socioeconomic deprivation, and smoking prevalence.

Results-The analysis was based on 2979 deaths, 5122 admissions, and a population of 199682. After adjustment for potential confounders, stroke mortality was 37% (95% CI, 19 to 57), 33% (95% CI, 14 to 56), and 26% (95% CI, 10 to 46) higher in the highest, relative to the lowest, NOx ,PM10 , and CO quintile categories, respectively. Corresponding increases in risk for admissions were 13% (95% CI, 1 to 27), 13% (95% CI, -1 to 29), and 11% (95% CI, -1 to 25).

Conclusion-The results are consistent with an excess risk of stroke mortality and, to a lesser extent, hospital admissions in areas with high outdoor air pollution levels. If causality were assumed, 11% of stroke deaths would have been attributable to outdoor air pollution. Targeting policy interventions at high pollution areas may be a feasible option for stroke prevention. (Stroke. 2005;36:239-243.)


pollutionstroke fig 1

Figure 1: Mean modeled NOx levels for CEDs in Sheffield, United Kingdom, 1994 to 1999

Further reading

Maheswaran, R., R. P. Haining, P. Brindley, J. Law, T. Pearson, P. R. Fryers, S. Wise, and M. J. Campbell (2005). “Outdoor Air Pollution and Stroke in Sheffield, United Kingdom: A Small-Area Level Geographical Study.” Stroke 36, 239-43.