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Stricter air pollution levels could save thousands of lives

Up to 10,000 lives could be saved a year if the current ‘safe level’ for air pollution is tightened, research has found.
Pollution

Up to 10,000 lives could be saved a year by reducing air pollution, research has found.

American scientists at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health looked at 13 years of data for more than 12 million older people living in the south east of the US.

Researchers found for each 10% increase in the number of particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter in the air, mortality risk rose by 2%.

The risk even showed up in areas where particle levels were below the current safe limit.

We found that if particle concentrations could be reduced by about 10%, it would lower the death rates of people age 65 and older in the Southeastern US, saving 7,000 to 10,000 lives per year,' said senior author Joel Schwartz.

The researchers used both satellite remote sensing and on-the-ground pollution monitoring to

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Up to 10,000 lives could be saved a year by reducing air pollution, research has found.


Picture: iStock

American scientists at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health looked at 13 years of data for more than 12 million older people living in the south east of the US.

Researchers found for each 10% increase in the number of particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter in the air, mortality risk rose by 2%.

The risk even showed up in areas where particle levels were below the current ‘safe’ limit.

‘We found that if particle concentrations could be reduced by about 10%, it would lower the death rates of people age 65 and older in the Southeastern US, saving 7,000 to 10,000 lives per year,' said senior author Joel Schwartz.

The researchers used both satellite remote sensing and on-the-ground pollution monitoring to predict pollution in the postcode of each participant and compared the pollution data with Medicare data on participants’ health.

Particles from traffic were found to be the most toxic.

The researchers also found that people who were either of Afro-Carribbean origin, eligible for Medicaid, lived in lower-income postcodes, or had chronic diseases were more susceptible to particulate air pollution.


Wang Y et al (2017) Air pollution and mortality in the Medicare population. The New England Journal of Medicine. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1702747

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