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OBJECTIVE: To evaluate associations between early life air pollution and subsequent mortality. DESIGN: Geographical study. SETTING: Local government districts within England and Wales. EXPOSURE: Routinely collected geographical data on the use of coal and related solid fuels in 1951-1952 were used as an index of air pollution. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: We evaluated the relationship between these data and both all-cause and disease-specific mortality among men and women aged 35-74 years in local government districts between 1993 and 2012. RESULTS: Domestic (household) coal consumption had the most powerful associations with mortality. There were strong correlations between domestic coal use and all-cause mortality (relative risk per SD increase in fuel use 1.124, 95% CI 1.123 to 1.126), and respiratory (1.238, 95% CI 1.234 to 1.242), cardiovascular (1.138, 95% CI 1.136 to 1.140) and cancer mortality (1.073, 95% CI 1.071 to 1.075). These effects persisted after adjustment for socioeconomic indicators in 1951, current socioeconomic indicators and current pollution levels. CONCLUSION: Coal was the major cause of pollution in the UK until the Clean Air Act of 1956 led to a rapid decline in consumption. These data suggest that coal-based pollution, experienced over 60 years ago in early life, affects human health now by increasing mortality from a wide variety of diseases.

Original publication

DOI

10.1136/bmjopen-2017-018231

Type

Journal article

Journal

BMJ Open

Publication Date

27/04/2018

Volume

8

Keywords

air pollution, developmental origins of health and diseasee, mortality, Adult, Aged, Air Pollutants, Air Pollution, Coal, England, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Mortality, United Kingdom, Wales