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Even low levels of air pollution can increase the risk of early death

Air pollution can increase the risk of early death due to cardiovascular and respiratory disease, according to one of the largest international studies on air pollution and mortality to date. 

The study, led by Dr. Haidong Kan from Fudan University in China, is not the first to link air pollution to early death, but this research focused on short-term health impacts. 

According to the World Health Organization, around 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide are due to air pollution. Children are especially vulnerable, and 93 percent of the world’s children are breathing in toxic air

Air pollution is a wide-reaching problem with devastating health impacts, and researchers are finding links between air pollution and a range of health problems beyond respiratory and cardiovascular disease. 

For this research, Dr. Kan, along with an international team, analyzed air pollution and mortality data from 652 cities across 24 countries and regions over a 30-year period. 

In all areas studied, the researchers were able to link exposure to particulate matter, both PM10, and PM2.5, to increases in premature deaths. 

Even low levels of exposure were found to increase the risk of death. 

“The adverse health effects of short-term exposure to air pollution have been well documented, and known to raise public health concerns of its toxicity and widespread exposure,” said Yuming Guo, an Associate Professor at Monash University who was part of the research team. “The smaller the airborne particles, the more easily they can penetrate deep into the lungs and absorb more toxic components causing death.”

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that there may be no such thing as a safe level of air pollution and that even air quality that meets the recommended standards could pose a threat to public health. 

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer 

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Blackday

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