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Which health hazards arise from polluted air?
Long-term pollution pollution is a major cause of cardiovascular disease and premature death. This applies to low-income countries as well as to high-income countries.
A recent study led by Oregon State University (OSU) found that global air pollution is a major cause of cardiovascular disease. It doesn't seem to make any difference whether the countries are low or high incomes. The results were published in the English language journal "The Lancet Planetary Health".
Data from 157,436 people were analyzed
The extensive investigation was based on data from the long-running Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. The researchers used data from 2003 to 2018 of 157,436 adults between the ages of 35 and 70 from 21 countries.
Danger from PM2.5 particles
Overall, the researchers found an increase in all cardiovascular events of five percent per 10 micrograms per cubic meter increase in the concentration of air pollutant particles below 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5). Taking into account the wide range of concentrations of PM2.5 recorded worldwide, this means that 14 percent of all cardiovascular events documented in the study can be attributed to PM2.5 exposure, the research group reports.
Risks were largely the same
The risks in low and middle income countries were largely identical to the risks in high income countries. The PURE study selected several countries from the low, middle and high income groups to fill a gap in existing research as most air pollution studies focus on people in high income countries and relatively low concentrations of air pollution had.
Why was the interest in PM2.5 particles?
The current study examined PM2.5 particles because they are small enough to be inhaled deep into the lungs, where they can cause chronic inflammation. These particles come from a number of combustion sources, including car engines, chimneys, and coal-fired power plants.
Results from previous research
Previous research based on the PURE cohort has already found correlations between the use of solid fuels and the use of kerosene with cardiovascular diseases. These also related to geographic variables, including whether a person's place of residence was rural or urban, and general access to quality health care in each country.
Effects of cardiovascular diseases
During the 15-year data period evaluated, 9,152 people had cardiovascular events, including 4,083 heart attacks and 4,139 strokes. The researchers reported a total of 3,219 deaths that could be attributed to cardiovascular diseases.
Air pollution massively increases the risk of stroke
According to the researchers, the strongest connection between air pollution and health effects was found in the stroke. This is in line with other research that has already associated stroke risk with PM2.5 exposure, especially at high concentrations.
Reducing air pollution would have a big impact
The long-term exposure to fine dust outside air pollution is one of the main causes of cardiovascular diseases and premature death in countries with whatever income. Even a small reduction in air pollution could lead to a significant reduction in the risk of disease, the researchers report.
It is not necessary to remove all air pollution immediately in order to have a positive effect on human health. If the concentration of outside air pollution is reduced, this is directly associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases. This was controversial before the current study. Some previous studies suggested that at high concentrations, as can be seen in many developing countries, the values would have to be reduced very significantly before any health benefits would arise.
Air pollution needs to be further reduced
Over the period of the study, air pollution has improved in some countries while worsening in others. It is now to be hoped that all countries will draw their conclusions from the new study results in order to achieve faster successes in reducing air pollution. (as)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Perry Hystad, Andrew Larkin, Sumathy Rangarajan, Khalid F AlHabib, Álvaro Avezum et al .: Associations of outdoor fine particulate air pollution and cardiovascular disease in 157 436 individuals from 21 high-income, middle-income, and low-income countries (PURE ): a prospective cohort study, in The Lancet Planetary Health (Published June 2020), The Lancet Planetary Health