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Air Pollution's Health Effects — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
July 10, 2013

Air Pollution's Health Effects

By Kelly Young

Three studies published this week highlight the dangers that air pollution poses to human health.

The first, a Lancet Oncology meta-analysis of 17 cohort studies across Europe, found that people who lived in areas with elevated levels of particulate matter in the air were at increased risk for lung cancer over 13 years' follow-up. The association was strongest for adenocarcinomas.

Second, a meta-analysis of 35 international studies in the Lancet found that higher exposures to carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter were associated with increased risk for heart failure hospitalization or death. The authors estimate that reducing the average particulate matter concentration in the U.S. by 3.9 micrograms per cubic meter could avert roughly 8000 heart failure hospitalizations annually.

And finally, a study in PNAS found that in northern China, where coal is provided free for fuel burners, particulate concentrations are 55% higher than in the south. At the same time, life expectancies are 5.5 years shorter in the north, largely because of higher cardiorespiratory mortality.

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