In the UK alone, air pollution contributes to tens of thousands of early deaths every year. The European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects (ESCAPE) aims to improve the understanding of how air pollution affects health by combining data from across Europe.

Why was this work needed?

There is increasing evidence that air pollution has a harmful effect on people’s health, specifically ultra fine pollution dust, known as particulate matter, and nitrogen dioxide. Air pollution has been shown to increase the risk of some cancers, heart disease, stroke and diseases of the airways, like asthma. However, the discovery of these links is relatively new and there is a need for large studies to determine the severity of these risks.

What happened?

ESCAPE is a collaboration between more than 30 existing European population studies. The project estimated the exposure to a variety of air pollutants for people living in different places in Europe. The study then compared these exposure levels with information like cancer incidence in those places.

What were the benefits?

One of the most important findings from ESCAPE has been the discovery that even when air pollution levels comply with the limits currently set in Europe, there can still be significant negative impacts on health. This provides clear evidence to governments and campaigners of the importance of lowering pollution limits and improving air quality.

What type of data was involved?

ESCAPE uses a range of techniques to measure air pollution, combining this with the clinical data being collected from cohort study participants. The health data they have collected includes information on pregnancy outcomes, rates of heart disease, cancers, asthma and allergies, specific disease biomarkers, causes of death and death rates.

ESCAPE consists of pre-existing cohort studies where participants have consented to take part.

Who funded and collaborated on this project?

ESCAPE is a project funded under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme Theme.

Where can I go for more information?

European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects

Long-term health effects of air pollution: results of the European project  ESCAPE

Long-term exposure to ambient air pollution and traffic noise and incident hypertension in seven cohorts of the European study of cohorts for air pollution effects (ESCAPE)