Medicine

Even 'safe' levels of PM2.5 pollution can lead to early death

Even 'safe' levels of PM2.5 pollution can lead to early death

What's more, the research team noted that some groups of seniors are even more vulnerable to such exposure, with low-income seniors facing a three times higher risk than more well-off seniors. The study has also found that central and southern Taiwan are in the most urgent need of air pollution reduction efforts.

Dominici said current de-regulatory climate in Washington makes it unlikely that air quality standards will be lowered anytime soon.

The study looked at fine inhalable particles (PM2.5) and ozone, particularly 'warm-season ozone, ' which occurs from April to September.

Under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), long-term exposures to PM2.5 are considered safe if they average 12 micrograms per cubic metre of air (12 µg/m3) or less per day over the course of a year.

The 24-hour standard is 35 μg/m3.

Older adults are more likely to die on days when air pollution rises, even when contaminant levels are below the limit considered safe by US regulators, a new study suggests.

They assessed daily air pollution exposures using prediction models that provided accurate estimates of PM2.5 and ozone for most of the USA, including unmonitored areas.

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The study focused on deaths from 2000 to 2012 for people in more than 39,000 ZIP codes nationwide who were insured by Medicare, the USA health program for the elderly and disabled.

Researchers studied more than 22 million deaths among Medicare recipients-the federal health insurance program for Americans aged 65 and up-from 2000 to 2012.

While the study only found an association, the investigators found that for every tiny incremental increase in either particulate pollution or ozone levels, the daily death rate bumped up between roughly 0.5 and 1 percent.

While this may seem a small increase, the public health impact is enormous if it is applied to the whole USA population of seniors, researchers said. For example, an increase of just 1 µg/m3 in daily PM2.5 over the course of one summer in the U.S. would lead to 550 extra deaths per year and 7,150 extra deaths over the course of the 13-year study period. Of all case and control days, 93.6% had PM2.5 levels below 25 μg/m, during which 95.2% of deaths occurred, and 91.1% of days had ozone levels below 60 parts per billion, during which 93.4% of deaths occurred.

Being exposed to short term spikes in air pollution even below legal limits leads to an early grave for the elderly, a study warned. The researchers also informed that unhealthy lifestyle, poverty and poor access to health are likely to play a role in increasing =g the mortality rates among elderly people.

A Harvard University T.H. Chen School of Public Health report, published Wednesday, says that even low levels of air pollution are linked with premature death for seniors.

"This translates to PM 2.5 causing an extra 20,000 deaths a year", said a co-author, Joel D. Schwartz, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard. Lead author Quan Di said, "No matter where you live - in cities, in the suburbs, or in rural areas - as long as you breathe air pollution, you are at risk".


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