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Open Access Research

Associations between mortality and meteorological and pollutant variables during the cool season in two Asian cities with sub-tropical climates: Hong Kong and Taipei

William B Goggins1*, Emily YY Chan2, Chunyuh Yang3 and Marc Chong1

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Biostatistics, School of Public Health and Primary Care, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong

2 Division of Family Medicine, School of Public Health and Primary Care, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong

3 Institute of Public Health, Kaohsiung Medical University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

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Environmental Health 2013, 12:59  doi:10.1186/1476-069X-12-59

Published: 19 July 2013

Abstract

Background

Numerous studies have found associations between extreme temperatures and human mortality but relatively few studies have been done in sub-tropical and tropical cities, especially in Asia. In this study we examine the impact of cold temperatures, cold waves and other meteorological and environmental variables on cool season mortality in 2 subtropical Asian cities.

Methods

Separate analysis of daily mortality time-series from Hong Kong and Taipei using Generalized Additive Models with natural mortality as the outcome daily mean temperature as the main explanatory variable and relative humidity, solar radiation, wind speed, pollutants (nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), respirable suspended particulates (PM10), ozone (O3), seasonality and day of the week controlled as potential confounders. Lags up to 35 days were considered for temperature, and distributed lag models were used to determine the number of lags for final models. Subgroup analyses were also done by gender, age group, cause of death and geographical area of residence.

Results

Cold temperatures were strongly associated with higher mortality with lagged effects persisting up to 3 weeks in Hong Kong and 2 weeks in Taipei. Cold effects were much stronger for deaths among older people and non-cancer deaths. Prolonged cold spells modestly but significantly raised mortality after accounting for the effects of individual cold days. Higher daily ozone levels were also strongly associated with higher short-term mortality in Taipei and Hong Kong, while relative humidity and solar radiation were weakly and inconsistently associated with mortality.

Conclusions

Cold temperatures and cold spells substantially increase short-term mortality in sub-tropical Asian cities particularly among the elderly. Greater attention needs to be paid to the adverse health effects of cold temperatures. Interventions including provisions of shelters, cold weather warnings and education about the possible health effects of cold temperature should be carried out in sub-tropical areas.

Keywords:
Cold wave; Cold spell; Biometeorology; Poisson regression; Mortality