Ozone's Impact on Public Health: Contributions from Indoor Exposures to Ozone and Products of Ozone-Initiated Chemistry

By Weschler, Charles J. | Environmental Health Perspectives, October 2006 | Go to article overview

Ozone's Impact on Public Health: Contributions from Indoor Exposures to Ozone and Products of Ozone-Initiated Chemistry


Weschler, Charles J., Environmental Health Perspectives


OBJECTIVE: The associations between ozone concentrations measured outdoors and both morbidity and mortality may be partially due to indoor exposures to ozone and ozone-initiated oxidation products. In this article I examine the contributions of such indoor exposures to overall ozone-related health effects by extensive review of the literature as well as further analyses of published data.

FINDINGS: Daily inhalation intakes of indoor ozone (micrograms per day) are estimated to be between 25 and 60% of total daily ozone intake. This is especially noteworthy in light of recent work indicating little, if any, threshold for ozone's impact on mortality. Additionally, the present study estimates that average daily indoor intakes of ozone oxidation products are roughly one-third to twice the indoor inhalation intake of ozone alone. Some of these oxidation products are known or suspected to adversely affect human health (e.g., formaldehyde, acrolein, hydroperoxides, fine and ultrafine particles). Indirect evidence supports connections between morbidity/mortality and exposures to indoor ozone and its oxidation products. For example, cities with stronger associations between outdoor ozone and mortality tend to have residences that are older and less likely to have central air conditioning, which implies greater transport of ozone from outdoors to indoors.

CONCLUSIONS: Indoor exposures to ozone and its oxidation products can be reduced by filtering ozone from ventilation air and limiting the indoor use of products and materials whose emissions react with ozone. Such steps might be especially valuable in schools, hospitals, and childcare centers in regions that routinely experience elevated outdoor ozone concentrations.

KEY WORDS: air exchange rates, aldehydes, indoor chemistry, inhalation intake, morbidity, mortality, secondary organic aerosols, surface chemistry, ultrafine particles. Environ Health Perspect 114:1489-1496 (2006). doi:10.1289/ehp.9256 available via http://dx.doi.org/ [Online 8 June 2006]

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Many studies have reported associations between outdoor ozone concentrations and morbidity and mortality. Hubbell et al. (2005) systematically summarized this literature, including associations between ozone and respiratory-related hospital admissions, lost school days, restricted activity days, asthma-related emergency department visits, and premature mortality. Additionally, ozone has been associated with respiratory symptoms and the use of asthma medication for asthmatic school children using maintenance medication (Gent et al. 2003), and long-term exposure to ozone has been tentatively associated with the development of asthma in adult males (McDonnell et al. 1999). Since the submission of Hubbell et al. (2005), three independent meta-analyses have been published, indicating an increase of 0.87% in mortality per 10-ppb increase in daily ozone (Bell et al. 2005), an increase of 0.39% in mortality per 10-ppb increase in 1-hr daily maximum ozone (Ito et al. 2005), and an increase of 0.41% in mortality per 10-ppb increase in 1-hr daily maximum ozone (Levy et al. 2005); in most of the studies included in the meta analyses, same-day effects were larger than lagged effects. A study of 23 European cities found an increase of 0.66% in mortality per 10 ppb increase in 1-hr maximum ozone during the summer (Gryparis et al. 2004); a study in Genoa, Italy, found an increase of 4.0% in mortality per 25-ppb increase in ozone (Parodi et al. 2005); and a study in Shanghai found an increase of 0.45% in mortality per 5-ppb increase in 2-day average ozone (Zhang et al. 2006). Significantly, even when Bell et al. (2006) used data that included only days with average ozone levels lower than 15 ppb, outdoor ozone was significantly associated with premature mortality. For a more extended review of these and other studies, see the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ozone criteria document (U.S. EPA 2006).

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