BACKGROUND: The short-term effects of particulate matter (PM) on mortality and morbidity differ by geographic location and season. Several hypotheses have been proposed for this variation, including different exposures with air conditioning (AC) versus open windows. METHODS: Bayesian hierarchical modeling was used to explore whether AC prevalence modified day-to-day associations between PM10 and mortality, and between PM2.5 and cardiovascular or respiratory hospitalizations, for those 65 years and older. We considered yearly, summer-only, and winter-only effect estimates and 2 types of AC (central and window units). RESULTS: Communities with higher AC prevalence had lower PM effects. Associations were observed for cardiovascular hospitalizations and central AC. Each additional 20% of households with central AC was associated with a 43% decrease in PM2.5 effects on cardiovascular hospitalization. Central AC prevalence explained 17% of between-community variability in PM2.5 effect estimates for cardiovascular hospitalizations. CONCLUSIONS: Higher AC prevalence was associated with lower health effect estimates for PM.
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