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Keywords:

  • Air pollution;
  • annoyances;
  • psychometric methods;
  • risk perception;
  • sensorial perception

Despite improvements in air quality in developed countries, air pollution remains a major public health issue. To fully assess the health impact, we must consider that air pollution exposure has both physical and psychological effects; this latter dimension, less documented, is more difficult to measure and subjective indicators constitute an appropriate alternative. In this context, this work presents the methodological development of a new scale to measure the perception of air quality, useful as an exposure or risk appraisal metric in public health contexts. On the basis of the responses from 2,522 subjects in eight French cities, psychometric methods are used to construct the scale from 22 items that assess risk perception (anxiety about health and quality of life) and the extent to which air pollution is a nuisance (sensorial perception and symptoms). The scale is robust, reproducible, and discriminates between subpopulations more susceptible to poor air pollution perception. The individual risk factors of poor air pollution perception are coherent with those findings in the risk perception literature. Perception of air pollution by the general public is a key issue in the development of comprehensive risk assessment studies as well as in air pollution risk management and policy. This study offers a useful new tool to measure such efforts and to help set priorities for air quality improvements in combination with air quality measurements.