Evaluating inter-continental transport of fine aerosols:(2) Global health impact

Junfeng Liu, Denise Leonore Mauzerall, Larry W. Horowitz

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In this second of two companion papers, we quantify for the first time the global impact on premature mortality of the inter-continental transport of fine aerosols (including sulfate, black carbon, organic carbon, and mineral dust) using the global modeling results of (Liu et al., 2009). Our objective is to estimate the number of premature mortalities in each of ten selected continental regions resulting from fine aerosols transported from foreign regions in approximately year 2000. Our simulated annual mean population-weighted (P-W) concentrations of total PM2.5 (aerosols with diameter less than 2.5 μm) are highest in East Asia (EA, 30 μg m-3) and lowest in Australia (3.6 μg m-3). Dust is the dominant component of PM2.5 transported between continents. We estimate global annual premature mortalities (for adults age 30 and up) due to inter-continental transport of PM2.5 to be nearly 380 thousand (K) in 2000. Approximately half of these deaths occur in the Indian subcontinent (IN), mostly due to aerosols transported from Africa and the Middle East (ME). Approximately 90K deaths globally are associated with exposure to foreign (i.e., originating outside a receptor region) non-dust PM2.5. More than half of the premature mortalities associated with foreign non-dust aerosols are due to aerosols originating from Europe (20K), ME (18K) and EA (15K); and nearly 60% of the 90K deaths occur in EA (21K), IN (19K) and Southeast Asia (16K). The lower and higher bounds of our estimated 95% confidence interval (considering uncertainties from the concentration-response relationship and simulated aerosol concentrations) are 18% and 240% of the estimated deaths, respectively, and could be larger if additional uncertainties were quantified. We find that in 2000 nearly 6.6K premature deaths in North America (NA) were associated with foreign PM2.5 exposure (5.5K from dust PM2.5). NA is least impacted by foreign PM2.5 compared to receptors on the Eurasian continent. However, the number of premature mortalities associated with foreign aerosols in NA (mostly occurring in the U.S.) is comparable to the reduction in premature mortalities expected to result from tightening the U.S. 8-h O3 standard from 0.08 ppmv to 0.075 ppmv. International efforts to reduce inter-continental transport of fine aerosol pollution would substantially benefit public health on the Eurasian continent and would also benefit public health in the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4339-4347
Number of pages9
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number28
StatePublished - Sep 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Environmental Science
  • Atmospheric Science


  • Aerosols
  • Air pollution
  • Inter-continental transport
  • PM2.5
  • Premature mortalities
  • Public health


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