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Air pollution is considered one of the most pressing environmental and health issues across OECD countries and beyond. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) has potentially the most significant adverse effects on health compared to other pollutants. PM2.5 can be inhaled and cause serious health problems including both respiratory and cardiovascular disease, having its most severe effects on children and elderly people. Exposure to PM2.5 has been shown to considerably increase the risk of heart disease and stroke in particular. For these reasons, population exposure to (outdoor or ambient) PM2.5 has been identified as an OECD Green Growth headline indicator.
The underlying PM2.5 concentrations estimates are taken from van Donkelaar et al. (2016). They have been derived using satellite observations and a chemical transport model, calibrated to global ground-based measurements using Geographically Weighted Regression at 0.01° resolution. The underlying population data, Gridded Population of the World, version 4 (GPWv4) are taken from the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) at the NASA. The underlying boundary geometries are taken from the Global Administrative Unit Layers (GAUL) developed by the FAO, and the OECD Territorial Classification, when available.
The current version of the database presents much more variation with respect to the previous one. The reason is that the underlying concentration estimates previously included smoothed multi-year averages and interpolations; while in the current version annual concentration estimates are used. Establishing trends of pollution exposure should be done with care, especially at smaller output areas, as their inputs (e.g. underlying data and models) can change from year to year. We recommend using a 3-year moving average for visualization.