According to two studies that were recently published in The Lancet Journal, air pollution is the cause of more cardiovascular disease and lung cancer deaths than previously thought. According to the American Lung Association, American air quality has improved, and the overall, air quality is satisfactory, but 42 percent of the population still lives in areas that are considered to be highly polluted. Researchers estimate that even reducing the particulate matter in the air can likely help over 7,900 people avoid hospitalization caused by heart failure every year.
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh did a systematic study of previous studies that evaluated the hospitalization and mortality rates caused from heart failure due to air pollutants. Based on their findings, researchers determined that acute exposure to pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, as well as particulate pollutants increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and hospitalization. The heart attack risk was found to be at its peak during day time hours when people were most exposed to pollution in the air.
Another study, led by Dr. Ole Raaschou-Nielsen with the Danish Cancer Society Research Center studies the link between lung cancer and long-term exposure to pollution in the air. Scientists examined 17 European studies previously done and found that even the smallest increase in particulate matter in the air can increase the risk for developing lung cancer by 18 percent.
In this study, researchers used a new method to eliminate risk factors caused from smoking. The authors believe that since nearly everyone has some exposure to pollution in the air, the impact to the general public is substantial. The World Health Organization says that global steps to reduce particulate pollutants in the air, even by a small amount could be a significant benefit to the health of people around the world.
Yet another study found that life expectancy of those that were exposed to air pollutants that are suspended mostly due to burning coal, could be reduced by as much as 5.5 years. Deterioration of heart health in those that were exposed to air pollution was said to be the cause of the shortened life spans.
Researchers have found that even with the current amounts of pollutants in the air globally, they could be controlled to help create a safer environment for everyone. They have said that this is the time for governments of developed nations to find ways to balance public health safety with the growth of their economies.
One study, done by the US Forest Service in conjunction with Davey Institute, discovered that planting trees in urban locations can considerably reduce much of the fine particulate pollutants from the air, which may help to create a healthier environment. In New York alone, it is estimated that the trees help to save about eight lives per year.