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Air Pollution Identified as a Life-threatening Illness: Study

"Our knowledge of the health effects of PM is still lacking in many areas," said researchers at the University of Southampton in UK

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Officials of CEED highlighted the fact that health must be the central point or focus for any kind of action on air pollution. Pixabay

Health related problems linked to air pollution could be far higher than previously thought, as researchers have found that short term exposure to fine particulate matter in the air (known as PM2.5) is associated with several newly identified causes of hospital admissions, even at levels below international air quality guidelines.

Air pollution has for the first time been linked life-threatening illnesses – including sepsis, kidney failure and urinary tract infections, according to the study published in the journal The BMJ.

The study also confirms several previously established causes of hospital admission associated with short term exposure to PM2.5 including heart and lung diseases, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes.

These associations remained even when the analysis was restricted to days when the PM2.5 concentration was below the WHO air quality guideline.

“Discovered several new causes of hospital admissions associated with short term exposure to PM2.5 and confirmed several already known associations, even at daily PM2.5 concentrations below the current WHO guideline,” said study researchers from Harvard Chan School of Public Health in US.

“Economic analysis suggests that even a small increase in short term exposure to PM2.5 is associated with substantial economic effect,” the added.

The researchers also suggest that the World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines need revising.

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FILE – Pollution and clouds are seen over the sky of Barcelona, Spain, July 25, 2019. VOA

For the findings, the research team analysed more than 95 million Medicare hospital insurance claims for adults aged 65 or older in the US from 2000 to 2012.

Causes of hospital admission were classified into 214 mutually exclusive disease groups and these were linked with estimated daily exposure to PM2.5 based on data from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The researchers then estimated the increased risk of admission and the corresponding costs associated with a 1 ug/m3 increase in short term exposure to PM2.5 for each disease group.

They found that each 1 ug/m3 increase in PM2.5 was associated with 2,050 extra hospital admissions, 12,216 days in hospital, and $31m (£24m, €28m) in care costs for diseases not previously associated with PM2.5 including sepsis, kidney failure, urinary tract and skin infections.

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The researchers point to some study limitations, such as being unable to fully capture costs after discharge, or take account of other factors that could trigger hospital admission, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and drug use.

However, strengths include the large sample size over a 13-year period and results that remained similar after further analyses, suggesting that they are robust.

“Our knowledge of the health effects of PM is still lacking in many areas,” said researchers at the University of Southampton in UK. (IANS)

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Air Pollution Associated with More Severe Rhinitis Symptoms: Researchers

Airborne particulate matter and NO2 are both traffic-related pollutants

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Pollution- climate crisis
Climate crisis has increased due to air pollution and people are facing lung and heart-related problems. VOA

Researchers have found that the nasal symptoms of rhinitis are more severe in people exposed to higher levels of outdoor air pollution.

Rhinitis, a condition that affects between 20 per cent and 50 per cent of the world’s population, is a disorder of the nasal mucosa characterised by congestion, sneezing, rhinorrhoea, nasal irritation and, in some cases, a reduced sense of smell.

“Rhinitis is associated with asthma, which is closely linked to air pollution. That is why we thought it would be interesting to investigate whether long-term exposure to air pollution also plays a determining role in rhinitis,” said study researcher Benedicte Jacquemi from Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) in Spain.

For the findings, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers analysed data from 1,408 patients with rhinitis from 17 different European cities, including Barcelona and Oviedo (Spain), Paris (France), Antwerp (Belgium), Umea (Sweden) and Erfurt (Germany).

The participants answered a questionnaire regarding the severity of each one of their rhinitis symptoms and the extent to which the condition interferes with their day-to-day lives.

According to the researchers, airborne particles, the diameter of which can vary from micrometres to millimetres, are solid or liquid bodies present in the air. Particles with a diameter under 2.5 (PM2.5) and under ten micrometres (PM10) are of particular interest in this context.

Delhi Toxic Air
An elderly Indian woman seeks alms as youth wearing pollution masks walk through a shopping area in New Delhi, India. VOA

As the study shows, people living in cities with higher levels of PM10 and PM2.5 report the most severe rhinitis symptoms. An increase of 5 �g/m3 in PM2.5 was associated with a 17 per cent higher probability of severe rhinitis.

These particles were associated with increased severity of congestion, nasal irritation and sneezing, whereas exposure to NO2 increased the severity of nasal discharge and congestion, the study said.

Airborne particulate matter and NO2 are both traffic-related pollutants.

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“The role of these pollutants in the severity of symptoms is probably linked to oxidative stress, apoptosis (a process by which irreparably damaged cells are eliminated) and inflammation,” said study lead author Emilie Burte.

“Our findings suggest that the effect of airborne particulate matter differs from that of gaseous emissions (NO2), probably because their respective mechanisms of action provoke different inflammatory responses in the respiratory tract; however, more studies are needed to validate this hypothesis,” Burt added. (IANS)