Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Air pollution and health in Sri Lanka: a review of epidemiologic studies

Yatagama Lokuge S Nandasena1*, Ananda R Wickremasinghe2 and Nalini Sathiakumar3

Author Affiliations

1 Evaluation and Research Unit, National Institute of Health Sciences, Ministry of Health, Kalutara, Sri Lanka

2 Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya, Kelaniya, Sri Lanka

3 Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, USA

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:300  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-300

Published: 2 June 2010



Air pollution is increasingly documented as a threat to public health in most developing countries. Evaluation of current air quality levels, regulatory standards and scientific literature on outdoor and indoor air pollution, and health effects are important to identify the burden, develop and implement interventions and to fill knowledge gaps in Sri Lanka.


PUBMED and Medline databases, local journals and conference proceedings were searched for epidemiologic studies pertaining to air pollution and health effects in Sri Lanka. All the studies pertaining to air pollution and health effects were considered.


Sixteen studies investigated the association between exposure to ambient or indoor air pollution (IAP) and various health outcomes ranging from respiratory symptoms, low birth weight and lung cancers. Of the sixteen, three used a case control design. Half of the studies collected exposure data only through questionnaires. There were positive associations between air pollution and adverse health effects in all studies. Methodological limitations in most of the studies resulted in poor quantification of risk estimates.


A limited number of epidemiological studies in Sri Lanka have investigated the health effects of air pollution. Based on findings of studies and reported air quality levels, air pollution may be considered a neglected public health problem in Sri Lanka.