Thursday September 20, 2018

People living in areas with Polluted Air Likely to develop High levels of Hypertension: Study

It is believed that air pollution leads to health problems by causing lung inflammation that spreads throughout the body, eventually leading to blood vessel and heart damage

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Air Pollution
A migrant worker steps out of his living quarters in an area next to a coal power plant in Beijing. VOA
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  • A recent study looked at hypertension in 41,000 people in five different countries – Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Spain – for five to eight years
  • beginning in 2008, none of the participants reported having high blood pressure but by 2011, 6200 people reported having developed hypertension and started taking blood-pressure lowering drugs
  • The researchers found that for every five micrograms per cubic meter of particulate matter, hypertension increased by one-fifth or 22 percent in people living in the most polluted areas

People who live in areas with polluted air increase their risk for developing hypertension, a leading risk factor for the development of heart disease. Known as high blood pressure, the hypertension study is the largest of its kind to establish the deadly link.

A recent study looked at hypertension in 41,000 people in five different countries – Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Spain – for five to eight years.

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It is part of the long-term “Europe Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects,” known as ESCAPE, which focuses on health problems associated with pollution.

At the hypertension study, beginning in 2008, none of the participants reported having high blood pressure or taking medicine to control it. By 2011, 6,200 people reported having developed hypertension and started taking blood-pressure lowering drugs.

Most lived in urban areas where air pollution is highest.

Air pollution is measured in micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter. The researchers found that for every five micrograms per cubic meter of particulate matter, hypertension increased by one-fifth or 22 percent in people living in the most polluted areas.

Epidemiologist Barbara Hoffmann, who works for the Center for Health and Society at Heinrich-Heine University in Germany and led the study, says many of these cases of high blood pressure could be prevented.

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“So this is a very important result if you can see that something that you can actually change. I mean we can actually reduce air pollution, can have such an influence on such an important health outcome,” said Hoffman.

The findings were published in the European Heart Journal.

Hoffmann says researchers will now study areas of where pollution is low, looking at the health effects of cleaner air.

“But this is of course important in terms of regulation because you would like to regulate the air pollution down to a level where you do not see any (health) effects anymore. So, therefore it is really important to look at areas of low exposure and see how far down can you go until you do not see any effects anymore,” said Hoffman.

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It is believed that air pollution leads to health problems by causing lung inflammation that spreads throughout the body, eventually leading to blood vessel and heart damage. (VOA)

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Air Pollution Not Fatal But Could Reduce Life Expectancy By A Year

In countries like India and China, the benefit for elderly people of improving air quality would be especially large.

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Air pollution shortens life by more than one year in India. Wikimedia Commons

If air pollution were removed as a risk for death, people in the world could live at least a year longer and in India, which is battling a severe air pollution, the benefit would be even more — about 1.5 years, says study.

“Here, we were able to systematically identify how air pollution also substantially shortens lives around the world,” said lead researcher Joshua Apte from The University of Texas at Austin in the US.

“What we found is that air pollution has a very large effect on survival — on average about a year globally,” Apte added.

For the study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters, the researchers looked at outdoor air pollution from particulate matter (PM) smaller than 2.5 microns.

These fine particles that can come from power plants, cars and trucks, fires, agriculture and industrial emissions can enter deep into the lungs, and breathing PM2.5 is associated with increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, respiratory diseases and cancer.

Delhi air pollution
Stubble burning is one of the main reason behind heavy pollution in the Delhi and NCR region. Wikimedia Commons

The team used data from the Global Burden of Disease Study to measure PM2.5 air pollution exposure and its consequences in 185 countries.

They then quantified the national impact on life expectancy for each individual country as well as on a global scale.

“A body count saying 90,000 Americans or 1.1 million Indians die per year from air pollution is large but faceless,” Apte said.

“Saying that, on average, a population lives a year less than they would have otherwise — that is something relatable,” he added.

In the context of other significant phenomena negatively affecting human survival rates, Apte said this is a big number.

Also Read: How Auxillary Nurse Midwives (ANMs) in Remote Tribal Belts of Andhra Pradesh in India Have Brought Down Maternal Deaths to Zero

“For example, it’s considerably larger than the benefit in survival we might see if we found cures for both lung and breast cancer combined,” he said.

“In countries like India and China, the benefit for elderly people of improving air quality would be especially large. For much of Asia, if air pollution were removed as a risk for death, 60-year-olds would have a 15 per cent to 20 per cent higher chance of living to age 85 or older,” Apte said (IANS)