Background: Air pollution has been linked to mortality, but there are few studies examining the association with different exposure time windows spanning across several decades. The evidence for the effects of green space and mortality is contradictory. Objective: We investigated all-cause mortality in relation to exposure to particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), black carbon (BC), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3) and greenness (normalized difference vegetation index - NDVI) across different exposure time windows. Methods: The exposure assessment was based on a combination of the Danish Eulerian Hemispheric Model and the Urban Background Model for the years 1990, 2000 and 2010. The analysis included a complete case dataset with 9,135 participants from the third Respiratory Health in Northern Europe study (RHINE III), aged 40-65 years in 2010, with mortality follow-up to 2021. We performed Cox proportional hazard models, adjusting for potential confounders. Results: Altogether, 327 (3.6 %) persons died in the period 2010-2021. Increased exposures in 1990 of PM2.5, PM10, BC and NO2 were associated with increased all-cause mortality hazard ratios of 1.40 (95 % CI1.04-1.87 per 5 μg/m3), 1.33 (95 % CI: 1.02-1.74 per 10 μg/m3), 1.16 (95 % CI: 0.98-1.38 per 0.4 μg/m3) and 1.17 (95 % CI: 0.92-1.50 per 10 μg/m3), respectively. No statistically significant associations were observed between air pollution and mortality in other time windows. O3 showed an inverse association with mortality, while no association was observed between greenness and mortality. Adjusting for NDVI increased the hazard ratios for PM2.5, PM10, BC and NO2 exposures in 1990. We did not find significant interactions between greenness and air pollution metrics. Conclusion: Long term exposure to even low levels of air pollution is associated with mortality. Opening up for a long latency period, our findings indicate that air pollution exposures over time may be even more harmful than anticipated.
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