New research shows that brief exposure to air pollution leads to a shocking number of hospitalizations for a much higher number of health problems than earlier believed.
According to researchers from Harvard University, pollution can do damage in our bodies, as well as in our wallets. Study co-author Yaguang Wei, a doctoral candidate at the university’s School of Public Health, said in a press release that the health risks and economic impacts of air pollution are incredibly larger than earlier thought.
As per the team of researchers, air quality was correlated to everything from urinary tract infections to skin and tissue infections, to heart failure. Over 95 million health insurance claims between the years 2000 and 2012 in the U.S. were analyzed by the researchers, with patients 65 or older registered in the Medicare program in mind.
Wei and fellow colleagues were able to showcase air quality for each patient in the two days previous to their hospitalization. They analyzed levels of a particular type of air pollution known as ‘fine particulate matter,’ or ‘PM2.5.’ This matter is so small that it can enter organs such as your lungs and cause severe health issues.
This type of air pollution is generated by sources such as cars, power plants, and even forest fires. By observing patient’s zip codes, scientists could determine the PM2.5 levels in their area.
Air Pollution Damages Every Cell and Organism it Penetrates
The research demonstrated that even a tiny increase in PM2.5 over the course of two days was linked to an annual increase of over 5,500 hospitalizations, 30,000 days in the hospital, and more than 600 deaths for a wide range of illnesses linked to air pollution.
The study found that numerous widespread but rarely studied disease groups were correlated with PM2.5, which include kidney failure, electrolyte disorders, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.
Despite the fact that PM2.5 levels were below guidelines created by the World Health Organization (WHO), the outcome remained the same, according to the research. The increase in pollution was also associated with US$100-million in annual inpatient and post-care costs and $6.5 billion in the ‘value of statistical life,’ which summarizes the economic value of deaths.
“These results raise awareness of the continued importance of assessing the impact of air pollution exposure,” co-author Francesca Dominici said.
A 2018 report written by Environment and Climate Change Canada discovered that PM2.5 densities have remained below Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards since 2002. More serious annual standards were implemented in 2013, which is 28 micrograms per cubic meter, a bit higher than the WHO standard of 25 micrograms.
The Harvard research is in accordance with a study published this year that showed air pollution affects almost every cell in the body, destroying organs and being linked with every health issue from fertility problems to dementia.
Reports published last year clearly show that more than 7,000 Canadians had died in 2015 due to chronic exposure to air pollution.
The health effects of climate change are believed to continue to add to these illnesses, which affects the general population, including respiratory conditions, allergies, Lyme disease, and cardiovascular issues.
Known for her passion for writing, Paula contributes on both Science and Health niches here at Dual Dove.