New paper published in Environmental Research Letters by Giani et al.

Author: Paola Crippa

Per capita difference between long-term annual premature mortality between 2018 and 2015, per 100,000 inhabitants.

Exploring sources of uncertainty in premature mortality estimates from fine particulate matter: the case of China.


Atmospheric pollution from fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is one of the major concerns in China because of its widespread and harmful impacts on human health. In recent years, multiple studies have sought to estimate the premature mortality burden from exposure to PM2.5 to inform policy decisions. However, different modeling choices have led to a wide array of results, with significant discrepancies both in the total mortality burden and in the confidence intervals. Here, we present a new comprehensive assessment of PM2.5-related mortality for China, which includes quantification of the main sources of variability, as well as of age and province-specific premature mortality trends during 2015–2018. Our approach integrates PM2.5 observations from more than 1600 monitoring stations with the output of a high-resolution (8 km) regional simulation, to accurately estimate PM2.5 fields along with their uncertainty, which is generally neglected. We discuss the sensitivity of mortality estimates to the choice of the exposure-response functions (ERFs), by comparing the widely used integrated exposure response functions (IERs) to the recently developed Global Exposure Mortality Models (GEMMs). By propagating the uncertainty in baseline mortalities, PM2.5 and ERFs under a Monte Carlo framework, we show that the 95% confidence intervals of mortality estimates are considerably wider than previously reported. We thus highlight the need for more epidemiological studies to constrain ERFs and we argue that uncertainty related to PM2.5 estimate should be also incorporated in health impact assessment studies. Although the overall mortality burden remains vast in China (~1.6 million premature deaths, according to GEMMs), our results suggest that 200 000 premature deaths were avoided and 195 billion US dollars were saved in 2018 compared to 2015, bolstering the mounting evidence about the effectiveness of China's air quality policies.