Air pollution linked to over 30,000 deaths and reduced life expectancy
New research has found that air pollution could be a factor in over 30,000 deaths in United States and is associated with a reduction in life expectancy.
Carried out by researchers from Imperial College London, United Kingdom, and the Center for Air, Climate and Energy Solutions at Carnegie Mellon University, U.S., the new study analyzed data from more than 750 air quality monitoring stations across the U.S., and combined the information with other sources of air pollution data, such as satellite images.
The researchers focused on a type of pollution called fine particle matter, or PM2.5, which are particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter mainly produced by burning fossil fuels from cars and other vehicle exhausts, power plants and industrial emissions.
The particles are around 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair and can penetrate deeply into the respiratory tract. They have already been linked with a range of conditions including heart attacks and various forms of lung disease.
The researchers also looked at information on mortality rates from the National Center for Health Statistics and took into account various factors that could influence the results, such as age, education, poverty and smoking rates.
The findings, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, showed that PM2.5 levels between 2.8 micrograms per cubic meter of air and 13.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air, were associated with an estimated 15,612 deaths in females and 14,757 deaths in men.
The deaths were caused by cardiorespiratory conditions, which refers to heart and lung problems such as heart attack and asthma. The researchers noted that there is already strong evidence of an association between cardiorespiratory diseases and air pollution.
They also estimate that these deaths would lower national life expectancy by 0.15 years for women, and 0.13 years for men.
The levels of PM2.5 associated with the deaths were also mostly below the current standard of 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The highest concentration of PM2.5 during the study period was 22.1 micrograms per cubic meter of air, in 1999, Fresno County, California.
Professor Majid Ezzati, the lead author of the research, commented on the findings saying, “We have known for some time that these particles can be deadly. This study suggests even at seemingly low concentrations, mostly below current limits, they still cause tens of thousands of deaths. Lowering the PM2.5 standard below the current level is likely to improve the health of the U.S. nation, and reduce health inequality.”
“U.S. PM2.5 concentrations are generally lower than those in many Europe cities, which suggests there may also be a substantial number of deaths in Europe associated with air pollution,” he added. HM/JB
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.