Annoyance due to air pollution is a subjective score of air quality, which has been incorporated into the National Environmental monitoring of some countries. The objectives of this study are to describe the variations in annoyance due to air pollution in Europe and its individual and environmental determinants. METHODS: This study took place in the context of the European Community Respiratory Health Survey II (ECRHS II) that was conducted during 1999-2001. It included 25 centres in 12 countries and 7867 randomly selected adults from the general population. Annoyance due to air pollution was self-reported on an 11-point scale. Annual mean mass concentration of fine particles (PM(2.5)) and its sulphur (S) content were measured in 21 centres as a surrogate of urban air pollution. RESULTS: Forty-three per cent of participants reported moderate annoyance (1-5 on the scale) and 14% high annoyance (>/=6) with large differences across centres (2-40% of high annoyance). Participants in the Northern European countries reported less annoyance. Female gender, nocturnal dyspnoea, phlegm and rhinitis, self-reported car and heavy vehicle traffic in front of the home, high education, non-smoking and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke were associated with higher annoyance levels. At the centre level, adjusted means of annoyance scores were moderately associated with sulphur urban levels (slope 1.43 mug m(-3), standard error 0.40, r = 0.61). CONCLUSIONS: Annoyance due to air pollution is frequent in Europe. Individuals' annoyance may be a useful measure of perceived ambient quality and could be considered a complementary tool for health surveillance.
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