Social inequalities resulting from health risks related to ambient air quality - A European review

Abstract : Background: Environmental nuisances, including ambient air pollution, are thought to contribute to social inequalities in health. There are two major mechanisms, which may act independently or synergistically, through which air pollution may play this role. Disadvantaged groups are recognized as being more often exposed to air pollution (differential exposure) and may also be more susceptible to the resultant health effects (differential susceptibility). Method: European research articles were obtained through a literature search in the Medline database using keywords ‘Socioeconomic Factors, Air Pollution, Health’ and synonymous expressions. Results: Some studies found that poorer people were more exposed to air pollution whereas the reverse was observed in other papers. A general pattern, however, is that, irrespective of exposure, subjects of low socio-economic status experience greater health effects of air pollution. So far as we are aware, no European study has explored this relationship among children. Conclusion: The housing market biases land use decisions and may explain why some subgroups suffer from both a low socio-economic status and high exposure to air pollution. Some data may be based on inaccurate exposure assessment. Cumulative exposures should be taken into account to explore health problems more accurately. The issue of exposure and health inequalities in relation to ambient air quality is complex and calls for global appraisal. There is no single pattern. Policies aimed at reducing the root causes of these inequalities could be based on urban multipolarity and diversity, two attributes that require long-term urban planning.
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S. Deguen, Denis Zmirou-Navier. Social inequalities resulting from health risks related to ambient air quality - A European review. European Journal of Public Health, Oxford University Press (OUP): Policy B - Oxford Open Option D, 2010, 20 (1), pp.27-35. ⟨10.1093/eurpub/ckp220⟩. ⟨hal-02323992⟩

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