30 April 2015

Modelling PM2.5 impact indicators in Europe

A paper to appear in a special issue of the journal Environmental Modelling & Software devoted to Modelling Human and Ecological Health Risks describes a novel solution to the problem of accurately modelling concentrations and health impacts of fine particulate matter with high resolution across Europe.

Long-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) has been shown to have significant negative impacts on human health. It is estimated that current levels of air pollution shorten the statistical life expectancy of European citizens by several months. The GAINS integrated assessment model calculates shortening of life expectancy from population exposure to PM2.5 using epidemiologically-derived health impact functions.

The downscaling methodology described in the paper has been used to estimate PM2.5 concentrations at 1875 air quality monitoring stations located in different types of environment ranging from remote background sites to busy street canyons. This allows the attainment of EU and WHO air quality standards for PM2.5 to be assessed, both under present conditions and in future scenarios assuming different levels of stringency of applicable control technologies.

Assuming the implementation of all currently agreed legislation (CLE), it is estimated that by 2030 the EU limit value for PM2.5 of 25 μg/m3 annual mean concentration will be met at nearly all (>98%) of the monitoring stations assessed. The WHO guideline value of 10 μg/m3 is likely to be attained by about 41% of the stations in 2030. Although this shows an improvement on the current situation (12% of stations in attainment in 2009), it is clear that further political action would be needed to bring about the additional emission controls necessary for achieving the WHO guideline throughout Europe.

The loss of life expectancy due to PM2.5 under different policy scenarios developed for the ongoing revision of the EU Air Quality Legislation has also been estimated. For the EU-28, the 2030 CLE scenario projects an average increase of 2.3 months of life expectancy, with the values for individual countries ranging between 0.7 and 4.5 months. In absolute terms, however, citizens of the worst affected regions would still lose more than six months life expectancy, even in 2030.

Kiesewetter G, Schoepp W, Heyes C, Amann M (2015)
Modelling PM2.5 impact indicators in Europe: Health effects and legal compliance
Environmental Modelling & Software, 74, 201-211 (Published online 8 April 2015)

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Last edited: 17 May 2016


Gregor Kiesewetter

Research Scholar

Air Quality and Greenhouse Gases

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International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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