Occup Environ Med 69:133-139 doi:10.1136/oem.2010.063750
  • Environment
  • Original article

Health benefits of traffic-related air pollution reduction in different socioeconomic groups: the effect of low-emission zoning in Rome

Editor's ChoicePress Release
  1. Gerard Hoek2
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology, Lazio Regional Health Service, Rome, Italy
  2. 2Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, University of Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  3. 3Netherlands Applied Research Organization (TNO), TA Utrecht, The Netherlands
  4. 4Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), Rome, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Giulia Cesaroni, Department of Epidemiology, Lazio Regional Health Service, Via S. Costanza 53, 00198 Rome, Italy; cesaroni{at}
  1. Contributors Each author has contributed to the conception and design of the work, the acquisition of data or the analysis of the data in a manner substantial enough to take public responsibility for it; each believes that the manuscript represents valid work; and each has reviewed the final version of the manuscript and approves it for publication.

  • Accepted 8 June 2011
  • Published Online First 7 August 2011


Objectives Few studies have assessed the effects of policies aimed to reduce traffic-related air pollution. The aims of this study were to evaluate the impact, in terms of air quality and health effects, of two low-emission zones established in Rome in the period 2001–2005 and to assess the impact by socioeconomic position (SEP) of the population.

Methods We evaluated the effects of the intervention on various stages in the full-chain model, that is, pressure (number and age distribution of cars), emissions, PM10 and NO2 concentrations, population exposure and years of life gained (YLG). The impact was evaluated according to a small-area indicator of SEP.

Results During the period 2001–2005, there was a decrease in the total number of cars (−3.8%), NO2 and PM10 emissions and concentrations (from 22.9 to 17.4 μg/m3 for NO2 and from 7.8 to 6.2 μg/m3 for PM10), and in the residents' exposure. In the two low-emission zones, there was an additional decrease in air pollution concentrations (NO2: −4.13 and −2.99 μg/m3; PM10: −0.70 and −0.47 μg/m3). As a result of the policy, 264 522 residents living along busy roads gained 3.4 days per person (921 YLG per 100 000) for NO2 reduction. The gain was larger for people in the highest SEP group (1387 YLG per 100 000) than for residents in the lowest SEP group (340 YLG per 100 000).

Conclusion The traffic policy in Rome was effective in reducing traffic-related air pollution, but most of the health gains were found in well-off residents.


  • Funding This study was funded by the INTARESE project. INTARESE is a 5-year Integrated Project funded under the EU 6th Framework Programme—Priority 6.3 Global Change and Ecosystems (Contract No. 018385).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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