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Vehicle exhaust exposure increases risk of common eye disease, study shows

The pollutants emitted from your car’s exhaust pipe could increase the risk of developing a common eye disease associated with blurred vision and even vision loss, according to a new study.  

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a neurodegenerative eye condition where thinning of the macula, or middle part of the retina, impairs vision, according to the Mayo Clinic

The disease most commonly affects people over the age of 50 and has been linked to both genetic and environmental risk factors. 

In a new study, researchers from Taiwan explored the impacts of long-term exposure to vehicle exhaust on vision and AMD risk. 

Past research has linked an increased chance of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases to air pollution, but few studies have examined how air quality impacts eye health. 

To help address this gap, the researchers analyzed ten years of data from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Program between 2000 and 2010 and calculated nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide exposure for 39,819 individuals aged 50 or older between 1998 and 2010. 

The majority of participants enrolled in the study lived in urbanized areas and of the 39,819 individuals, 1,442 developed AMD at some point during the monitoring period. 

Exposure to the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide was associated with an almost doubled risk of developing AMD compared to those participants who were exposed to the lowest levels. 

Individuals who were exposed to the highest levels of carbon monoxide were 84 percent more likely to develop AMD compared to those exposed to the lowest levels. 

The study is the first of its kind to identify a link between AMD and high levels of vehicle exhaust pollution exposure for people over the age of 50. However, the researchers note that there are limits to the results as they are based on observational data. 

The researchers published their findings in the Journal of Investigative Medicine

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer 

Image Credit: Shutterstock/khunkorn

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