Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 29–46 | Cite as

Characterizing the burden of disease of particulate matter for life cycle impact assessment

  • Carina J. GronlundEmail author
  • Sebastien Humbert
  • Shanna Shaked
  • Marie S. O’Neill
  • Olivier Jolliet


Fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) is a major environmental contributor to human burden of disease and therefore an important component of life cycle impact assessments. An accurate PM2.5 characterization factor, i.e., the impact per kilogram of PM2.5 emitted, is critical to estimating “cradle-to-grave” human health impacts of products and processes. We developed and assessed new characterization factors (disability-adjusted life years (DALY)/kgPM2.5 emitted), or the products of dose-response factors (deaths/kgPM2.5 inhaled), severity factors (DALY/death), and intake fractions (kgPM2.5 inhaled/kgPM2.5 emitted). In contrast to previous health burden estimates, we calculated age-specific concentration- and dose-response factors using baseline data, from 63 US metropolitan areas, consistent with the US study population used to derive the relative risk. We also calculated severity factors using 2010 Global Burden of Disease data. Multiplying the revised PM2.5 dose responses, severity factors, and intake fractions yielded new PM2.5 characterization factors that are higher than previous factors for primary PM2.5 but lower for secondary PM2.5 due to NOx. Multiplying the concentration-response and severity factors by 2005 ambient PM2.5 concentrations yielded an annual US burden of 2,000,000 DALY, slightly lower than previous US estimates. The annual US health burden estimated from PM emissions and characterization factors was 2.2 times higher.


Particulate matter Life cycle impact assessment Characterization factor Burden of disease 



This research was supported by a National Occupational Research Agenda Pre-Doctoral Scholarship from the University of Michigan Center for Occupational Health and Safety Engineering (a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-funded Education and Research Center 2T42OH008455), the National Institute on Aging Interdisciplinary Research Training in Health and Aging T32AG027708, and the Sustainability Consortium and a University of Michigan Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute Dow Postdoctoral Fellowship.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carina J. Gronlund
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sebastien Humbert
    • 2
  • Shanna Shaked
    • 3
  • Marie S. O’Neill
    • 4
  • Olivier Jolliet
    • 4
  1. 1.Center for Social Epidemiology and Population HealthUniversity of Michigan School of Public HealthAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.QuantisLausanneSwitzerland
  3. 3.University of California, Los Angeles, Physics and AstronomyLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.University of Michigan School of Public HealthAnn ArborUSA

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