Even small levels of air pollution are dangerous to health

Researchers focusing on areas in Canada with the cleanest air found cases of ill-health linked to a toxic atmosphere.

Even small amounts of air pollution can have a significant impact on public health, according to a new study conducted by the U.S. Health Effects Institute and led by the University of British Columbia. 

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Using census records for more than 7million Canadians between 1981 and 2016, and air pollution data, the team found that even small amounts of particle pollution can negatively impact on human health, with around 8,000 people in Canada dying each year with many more experiencing health problems as a result of dirty air, including those living in the cleanest areas. 

A further two U.S. funded studies were also conducted, one looking at 60million Americans, another 27million people based in Europe. The findings again supported the conclusion that any amount of particulate pollution has a hugely detrimental impact on public health. As such, governments should not limit their aims when it comes to setting air pollution targets. 

‘These findings suggest important health benefits could be gained from continued reductions in air pollution and more stringent regulatory standards, including in countries such as Canada and the UK,’ said Professor Michael Brauer from the University of British Columbia, who led the Canadian study. 

‘Considering that we don’t identify a ‘safe’ level of air pollution, we should rethink our approach and focus on continued reductions year by year, rather than just setting fixed concentration standards that are only reviewed every five to 10 years. The health impacts are far too large,’ he continued. 

Last month, new research was published showing that air pollution contributes to the likelihood of developing dementia. 

Image credit: Michael Benz



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Dave Litton
Dave Litton
1 year ago

This is not surprising since the metric we use to measure particle pollution (mass concentration) fails to capture the contribution of very tiny particles with diameters less than 300 nanometers that penetrate and deposit in the deepest alveolar regions of the human lung. Particle surface areas or particle number concentrations would be better predictors of adverse health outcomes and these can be high even at low mass concentrations because their size is so small.

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