Global Health

Air pollution affects millions of adults and children around the world, with an estimated 6.7 million deaths globally from air pollution. Each year, exposure to air pollution can lead to death and disability as well as loss of productivity due to a variety of health effects including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and neonatal disorders. HEI's Global Health program is engaged in several projects around the world applying science to better understand air pollution's health impact. The program receives generous financial support from foundations, philanthropies, and international organizations.

Percentage of Global Deaths (by Cause) Attributed to Air Pollution in 2019


Nine out of ten people on Earth are exposed to harmful levels of PM2.5 pollution, with the highest exposures occurring in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

Join us at 10 AM US Eastern Time on the 7th of the month for the rest of the year as we go live across our social media platforms for our Science on the 7th series. Experts will join us for a conversation aiming to break down air quality issues. Watch previous discussions:

Ongoing Projects

State of Global Air

HEI’s annual State of Global Air report and interactive website bring into one place a comprehensive analysis of the air quality and health levels and multi-year trends for more than 200 countries in the world. The report and website provide the public, journalists, policymakers, and scientists access to meaningful and reliable information about air pollution exposure and global health impacts. These resources are free and available to the public. More.

Air Pollution and Health in East Africa

HEI is working with collaborators in East Africa, especially Kenya and Uganda to assess and communicate the health effects of air pollution in East Africa


In collaboration with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi and the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT-Delhi), HEI is supporting a national research network focused on air pollution and health effects research in India - Collaborative on Air Pollution and Health Effects Research (CAPHER-India). This project is supported by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. More.

Air Pollution and Health in Southeast Europe

For decades, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) levels in the countries in Southeastern Europe have remained higher than in other countries in the region. HEI is working on a project aimed at increasing understanding of air pollution and health effects in Southeast Europe with a particular focus on Bulgaria and Serbia. In collaboration with scientists and practitioners in the region, HEI is assembling and synthesizing local evidence on health effects and impacts in the context of national, regional, and global air pollution, as well as sources and burden of disease and key knowledge gaps that limit policy action. This project is supported by the Clean Air Fund.

Air Quality and Health in Europe

In Europe, HEI continues to work in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) on Air Quality Guidelines and has funded various epidemiologic studies on the health effects of traffic-related air pollution and noise and on health effects at low exposure concentrations. In January 2020, HEI co-organized a meeting in Brussels alongside WHO, International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE), European Respiratory Society (ERS), and the European Commission to review the latest science on major pollutants as a key step in evaluating whether to update Europe’s air quality policies. Our air pollution and health program is currently funding several research studies of air pollution, traffic, and health in Europe.

Past Projects

Global Burden of Disease from Major Air Pollution Sources (GBD MAPS)

In 2014, HEI initiated the Global Burden of Disease from Major Air Pollution Sources (GBD MAPS) project. Using the GBD framework, investigators for GBD MAPS have estimated the burden of disease attributable to major ambient air pollution sources in countries around the world. So far, we have published three reports under this initiative:   

Burden of Disease Attributable to Coal-Burning and Other Air Pollution Sources in China [2016]

Burden of Disease Attributable to Major Air Pollution Sources in India [2018]

Global Burden of Disease from Major Air Pollution Sources (GBD MAPS): A Global Approach [2021]

Watch a short video highlighting the connections between air quality, climate, and health.


Shipping Emissions in the Yangtze River Delta, China

HEI worked with a team of investigators from Fudan, Tsinghua Universities, and other Chinese research institutions to conduct a comprehensive analysis of emissions from shipping and related health impacts. Estimates were also prepared for the year 2030 under three future emissions control scenarios (see Special Report 22).

Household Air Pollution in Ghana

In 2018 and 2019, HEI evaluated the contribution of household air pollution to ambient fine particle air pollution in Ghana as well as its impact on health (see HEI Communication 19).

Household Air Pollution and Noncommunicable Disease

In 2018, HEI published a critical assessment of the state of the science examining the linkages between household air pollution formed by the burning of solid fuels and noncommunicable diseases. (see HEI Communication 18).

Public Health and Air Pollution in Asia (PAPA)

In the 2000s, with support from foundations, HEI conducted the Public Health and Air Pollution In Asia (PAPA) program (see several research reports and a comprehensive review of the Asian literature on air pollution and health). The PAPA Program sought to inform regional decisions about improving air quality in Asia.