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Table 2 Approximate hypothetical lifetime increased mortality rate from illustrative scenarios of exposure to air pollution, passive smoking and radiationa.

From: Are passive smoking, air pollution and obesity a greater mortality risk than major radiation incidents?

Exposure scenario Exposure Health endpoint Approximate lifetime increased mortality
Living in Central London compared to Inverness. Mix of air pollutants indicated by average PM2.5 = 6.9 μg m-3 higher. Mortality 2.8 %
Postulated 2.8% higher air pollution related mortality in central London compared to Inverness (see text).
N.B. Extrapolates from data in the US. May be confounding factors which, if accounted for, would change the excess risk. Time-lag between exposure and effect is uncertain.
Passive smoking – risk to non-smoker at home if spouse smokes. Mix of pollutants in secondhand smoke. Mortality 1.7 %
1.7% lifetime excess IHD mortality risk from passive smoking: average for men and women [36].
N.B. Heart disease risk: does not include strokes or the (significantly lower) risk from lung cancer or other illnesses. May be confounding factors/limitations of meta-analysis data.
Chernobyl emergency workers in the 30-km Zone 1986–87. Radiation exposure:
100 mSv
250 mSv
Illustrative of mean (100 mSv) and high (250 mSv) doses: 4% of workers received doses >250 mSv.
Mortality 0.4 %
1.0 %
Predicted 4% risk of fatal cancer for 1000 mSv dose to working age population.
N.B. Uncertainty in extrapolation from high dose and dose rate Japanese data to these chronic low doses. If the DDREF was not applied, mortality risk would increase by a factor of 2. Time lag between exposure and effect is generally long (> 10 years) for solid cancers, but is shorter (< 15 years) for leukaemia. Note that 134 ARS victims received much higher doses than 250 mSv.
  1. a. Note that health impacts change (generally, but not always, increase) with age. Risk also varies with age at time of exposure. For example, for air pollution, risks are believed to be higher for older people, but for radiation risks are higher from exposure at a young age (though effects may be observed after a long latency period). Risks may be distributed within the population in a different way for different risk factors. All risk factors have potential impacts on morbidity (illness) in addition to mortality.