'Long-term exposure to low air pollution levels very deadly'

Long-term exposure to low air pollution levels very deadly

New York, Feb 22 : Long-term exposure to low levels of air pollution can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, atrial fibrillation and pneumonia among people ages 65 and older, new research has warned. Air pollution can cause harm to the cardiovascular and respiratory systems due to its effect on inflammation in the heart and throughout the body, said the study published in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation. "People should be conscious of the air quality in the region where they live to avoid harmful exposure over long periods of time, if possible," said Mahdieh Danesh Yazdi, a post-doctoral research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and lead author of the study. "Air pollution should be considered as a risk factor for cardiovascular and respiratory disease by clinicians, and policy makers should reconsider current standards for air pollutants." Researchers examined hospitalization records for more than 63 million Medicare enrollees in the US from 2000 to 2016 to assess how long-term exposure to air pollution impacts hospital admissions for specific cardiovascular and respiratory issues. The study measured three components of air pollution: fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3). The researchers calculated the study participants' exposure to the pollutants based upon their residential zip code. Additional analysis included the impact of the average yearly amounts of each of the pollutants on hospitalization rates for non-fatal heart attacks, ischemic strokes, atrial fibrillation and flutter, and pneumonia. Statistical analyses found thousands of hospital admissions were attributable to air pollution per year. "The risks for heart attacks, strokes, atrial fibrillation and flutter, and pneumonia were associated with long-term exposure to particulate matter," the findings showed. Data also showed there were surges in hospital admissions for all of the health outcomes studied with each additional unit of increase in particulate matter. Specifically, stroke rates increased by 2,536 for each additional ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter of air) increase in fine particulate matter each year. There was an increased risk of stroke and atrial fibrillation associated with long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide. Pneumonia was the only health outcome in the study that seemed impacted by long-term exposure to ozone; however, researchers note there are currently no national guidelines denoting safe or unsafe long-term ozone levels. "When we restricted our analyses to individuals who were only exposed to lower concentrations of air pollution, we still found increased risk of hospital admissions with all of the studied outcomes, even at concentration levels below current national standards," added Yazdi. /IANS


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