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Environmental Risk Factors and Health: An Umbrella Review of Meta-Analyses

Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, Colorado State University, Environmental Health Building, 1601 Campus Delivery, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
Logan Simpson, 213 Linden Street, Fort Collins, CO 80524, USA
Saudi Center for Disease Prevention and Control, 70 SCDC Building, Al Aarid, King Abdulaziz Rd, Riyadh 13354, Saudi Arabia
Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice, The World Bank, Diplomatic Quarter, Riyadh Country Office, Riyadh 94623, Saudi Arabia
Community Health Department, King Saud University, Riyadh 11433, Saudi Arabia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(2), 704;
Received: 3 November 2020 / Revised: 31 December 2020 / Accepted: 12 January 2021 / Published: 15 January 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Health: Feature Review Papers)
Background: Environmental health is a growing area of knowledge, continually increasing and updating the body of evidence linking the environment to human health. Aim: This study summarizes the epidemiological evidence on environmental risk factors from meta-analyses through an umbrella review. Methods: An umbrella review was conducted on meta-analyses of cohort, case-control, case-crossover, and time-series studies that evaluated the associations between environmental risk factors and health outcomes defined as incidence, prevalence, and mortality. The specific search strategy was designed in PubMed using free text and Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) terms related to risk factors, environment, health outcomes, observational studies, and meta-analysis. The search was limited to English, Spanish, and French published articles and studies on humans. The search was conducted on September 20, 2020. Risk factors were defined as any attribute, characteristic, or exposure of an individual that increases the likelihood of developing a disease or death. The environment was defined as the external elements and conditions that surround, influence, and affect a human organism or population’s life and development. The environment definition included the physical environment such as nature, built environment, or pollution, but not the social environment. We excluded occupational exposures, microorganisms, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), behavioral risk factors, and no-natural disasters. Results: This umbrella review found 197 associations among 69 environmental exposures and 83 diseases and death causes reported in 103 publications. The environmental factors found in this review were air pollution, environmental tobacco smoke, heavy metals, chemicals, ambient temperature, noise, radiation, and urban residential surroundings. Among these, we identified 65 environmental exposures defined as risk factors and 4 environmental protective factors. In terms of study design, 57 included cohort and/or case-control studies, and 46 included time-series and/or case-crossover studies. In terms of the study population, 21 included children, and the rest included adult population and both sexes. In this review, the largest body of evidence was found in air pollution (91 associations among 14 air pollution definitions and 34 diseases and mortality diagnoses), followed by environmental tobacco smoke with 24 associations. Chemicals (including pesticides) were the third larger group of environmental exposures found among the meta-analyses included, with 19 associations. Conclusion: Environmental exposures are an important health determinant. This review provides an overview of an evolving research area and should be used as a complementary tool to understand the connections between the environment and human health. The evidence presented by this review should help to design public health interventions and the implementation of health in all policies approach aiming to improve populational health. View Full-Text
Keywords: environmental risk factors; umbrella review; meta-analyses; systematic review; epidemiological studies environmental risk factors; umbrella review; meta-analyses; systematic review; epidemiological studies
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MDPI and ACS Style

Rojas-Rueda, D.; Morales-Zamora, E.; Alsufyani, W.A.; Herbst, C.H.; AlBalawi, S.M.; Alsukait, R.; Alomran, M. Environmental Risk Factors and Health: An Umbrella Review of Meta-Analyses. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 704.

AMA Style

Rojas-Rueda D, Morales-Zamora E, Alsufyani WA, Herbst CH, AlBalawi SM, Alsukait R, Alomran M. Environmental Risk Factors and Health: An Umbrella Review of Meta-Analyses. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021; 18(2):704.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Rojas-Rueda, David, Emily Morales-Zamora, Wael A. Alsufyani, Christopher H. Herbst, Salem M. AlBalawi, Reem Alsukait, and Mashael Alomran. 2021. "Environmental Risk Factors and Health: An Umbrella Review of Meta-Analyses" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18, no. 2: 704.

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