Mortality burden of cardiovascular disease attributable to ambient PM2.5 exposure in Portugal, 2011 to 2021

Mariana O. Corda, Periklis Charalampous, Juanita A. Haagsma, Ricardo Assunção, Carla Martins*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Exposure to high levels of environmental air pollution causes several health outcomes and has been associated with increased mortality, premature mortality, and morbidity. Ambient exposure to PM2.5 is currently considered the leading environmental risk factor globally. A causal relationship between exposure to PM2.5 and the contribution of this exposure to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality was already demonstrated by the American Heart Association. 


To estimate the burden of mortality attributable to environmental risk factors, a comparative risk assessment was performed, considering a “top-down” approach. This approach uses an existing estimate of mortality of the disease endpoint by all causes as a starting point. A population attributable fraction was calculated for the exposure to PM2.5the overall burden of IHD and stroke was multiplied by the PAF to determine the burden attributable to this risk factor. The avoidable burden was calculated using the potential impact fraction (PIF) and considering the WHO-AQG 2021 as an alternative scenario. 


Between 2011 and 2021, the ambient exposure to PM2.5 resulted in a total of 288,862.7 IHD YLL and a total of 420,432.3 stroke YLL in Portugal. This study found a decreasing trend in the mortality burden attributable to PM2.5 exposure, for both males and females and different age-groups. For different regions of Portugal, the same trend was observed in the last years. The mortality burden attributable to long-term exposure to PM2.5 was mainly concentrated in Lisbon Metropolitan Area, North and Centre. Changes in the exposure limits to the WHO recommended value of exposure (WHO-AQG 2021) have a reduction in the mortality burden due to IHD and stroke attributable to PM2.5 exposure, in Portugal. 


Between 2011 and 2021, approximately 22% and 23% of IHD and stroke deaths were attributable to PM2.5 exposure. Nevertheless, the mortality burden attributable to cardiovascular diseases has been decreasing in last years in Portugal. Our findings provide evidence of the impact of air pollution on human health, which are crucial for decision-making, at the national and regional level.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1188
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2024

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