Inhaling polluted air can affect a person's health as much as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
This is from a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It is the first of its kind to give a long-term overview of the role of various air pollutants in the development of emphysema. The results show that air pollution can severely damage the lungs.
The study relied on data from the multiethnic study of atherosclerosis, which included more than 15,000 cardiac and pulmonary CT examinations and lung function tests, from 7,071 adults aged 45 to 84 in six communities in the US in 2000 until 2018. The data is a real plus here. The sample is not only big; it includes people from a variety of major cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and New York and various races and ethnic groups.
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Most of these cities have their air pollution from particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and black carbon. Ozone is the only exception that has increased. In the cities studied, the average annual ozone content was between 10 and 25 ppm. Values below 100 ppm do not trigger health alerts under Environmental Protection Agency standards, but this study shows that long-term exposure to low levels may also be hazardous to public health.
Exposed Persons Only 3 parts billion more ozone over a 10-year period is at the same risk of emphysema as a person smokes a pack of cigarettes every day for 29 years. Extreme heat exacerbates ozone pollution in the soil, and the authors note that this pollutant may become more prevalent due to the climate crisis.
"This shows us that there is no safe air pollution," said Brian Christman, vice chairman of the medical school at Vanderbilt University, who had not cooperated with the study, to Earther.
Unfortunately, this pollution is not felt equally by everyone. Low-income communities and color communities are more likely to come closest to poor air quality, as several studies have shown. We already know how air pollution can cause heart and other lung diseases. Now we can add emphysema to the list of threats that these communities are exposed to, which can age the lungs and speed death.
With the Trump government continuing to reduce environmental protection, marginalized communities can be even more burdened as their air quality decreases. It does not have to be that way. Christman noted that it could be helpful to get more electric cars on the road and develop clean energy sources.