Evaluating the long-term consequences of air pollution in early life: geographical correlations between coal consumption in 1951/1952 and current mortality in England and Wales.
Phillips DIW., Osmond C., Southall H., Aucott P., Jones A., Holgate ST.
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.