Urban Form, Air Pollution, and Health


Purpose of Review

Urban form can impact air pollution and public health. We reviewed health-related articles that assessed (1) the relationships among urban form, air pollution, and health as well as (2) aspects of the urban environment (i.e., green space, noise, physical activity) that may modify those relationships.

Recent Findings

Simulation and empirical studies demonstrate an association between compact growth, improved regional air quality, and health. Most studies are cross-sectional and focus on connections between transportation emissions and land use. The physical and mental health impacts of green space, public spaces that promote physical activity, and noise are well-studied aspects of the urban environment and there is evidence that these factors may modify the relationship between air pollution and health.


Urban form can support efforts to design clean, health-promoting cities. More work is needed to operationalize specific strategies and to elucidate the causal pathways connecting various aspects of health.

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Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance

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This article was developed in part under Assistance Agreement no. RD83587301 awarded by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This article has not been formally reviewed by the US EPA. The views expressed in this document are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the agency. The US EPA does not endorse any products or commercial services mentioned in this publication.

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Hankey, S., Marshall, J.D. Urban Form, Air Pollution, and Health. Curr Envir Health Rpt 4, 491–503 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40572-017-0167-7

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  • Urban planning
  • Built environment
  • Sprawl
  • Walkability