The relationship between black carbon and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposures and mortality in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania

Rebecca J. Warren, Sheena E. Martenies, Jennifer L. Peel, Tan Yi, Allen L. Robinson, Albert A. Presto, Sheryl Magzamen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Black carbon (BC) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are components of fine particulate matter associated with adverse health outcomes. However, limited work has examined the effects of PM constituents on mortality risk. Our multiple regression analysis evaluated the association of estimated neighborhood-level average fine particulate matter (PM2.5), BC, and PAH concentrations for 2013 obtained from local-scale land use regression models with 2007–2011 census tract-level age-adjusted non-accidental, cardiovascular, pulmonary, cancer, and other mortality rates in Allegheny County, PA. Models were further adjusted for census tract-level race, education, and health insurance status. In our adjusted models, estimated pollutant concentrations were not consistently associated with mortality. Only one model’s effect estimate did not include the null value, although the relationship was opposite of our original hypothesis. An interquartile range (0.25 μg/m3) increase in BC concentration was associated with a 5.9% (95% CI − 11.07, − 0.36%) decrease in log-transformed cancer mortality. However, in all mortality categories, education and health insurance covariates had a robust association with outcomes. We did not find a consistent relationship between pollutant exposures and age-adjusted mortality rates in Allegheny County, PA. However, having health insurance and having greater than a high school diploma were associated with lower mortality risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)893-908
Number of pages16
JournalAir Quality, Atmosphere and Health
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Air pollution
  • Black carbon (BC)
  • Cardiovascular
  • Mortality
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Respiratory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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