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Ambient air pollution is projected to become a major environmental risk in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Research into its health impacts is hindered by limited data. We aimed to investigate the cross-sectional relationship between particulate matter with a diameter ≤ 2.5 μm (PM2.5) and prevalence of cough or acute lower respiratory infection (ALRI) among children under five in SSA. Data were collected from 31 Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) in 21 SSA countries between 2005–2018. Prior-month average PM2.5 preceding the survey date was assessed based on satellite measurements and a chemical transport model. Cough and ALRI in the past two weeks were derived from questionnaires. Associations were analysed using conditional logistic regression within each survey cluster, adjusting for child’s age, sex, birth size, household wealth, maternal education, maternal age and month of the interview. Survey-specific odds ratios (ORs) were pooled using random-effect meta-analysis. Included were 368,366 and 109,664 children for the analysis of cough and ALRI, respectively. On average, 20.5% children had reported a cough, 6.4% reported ALRI, and 32% of children lived in urban areas. Prior-month average PM2.5 ranged from 8.9 to 64.6 μg/m3. Pooling all surveys, no associations were observed with either outcome in the overall populations. Among countries with medium-to-high Human Development Index, positive associations were observed with both cough (pooled OR: 1.022, 95%CI: 0.982–1.064) and ALRI (pooled OR: 1.018, 95%CI: 0.975–1.064) for 1 μg/m3 higher of PM2.5. This explorative study found no associations between short-term ambient PM2.5 and respiratory health among young SSA children, necessitating future analyses using better-defined exposure and health metrics to study this important link.

Original publication




Journal article


International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health



Publication Date





9729 - 9729