British Medical Journal study finds link between coronary events and levels of particulate matter below current European limits
European limits for particulate matter should be lowered due to associations between the pollutant and coronary health problems, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal this week (January 21).
The study found an association between long-term exposure to inhalable particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), even for exposure levels below the current European limits. Positive but non-significant associations were also found with other pollutants.
As such, the research supports the lowering of European limits for particulate air pollution ‘to adequately protect public health’.
The current EU limit for PM2.5 is 25 micrograms per cubic metre (mg3), while the limit for PM10 is 40mg3.
Ambient particulate matter air pollution is estimated to cause 3.1 million deaths worldwide per year, but the study also found that the burden of disease attributable to outdoor particulate matter might be underestimated if only estimates of mortality are considered.
More than 100,000 people from Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Italy were studied between 1997 to 2007 for an average of 11.5 years for the research. Participants were free from previous coronary events at the baseline.
Of these, 5,157 participants experienced ‘incident events’. A 5mg3 increase in estimated annual PM2.5 levels was associated with a 13% increased risk of coronary events, while a 10mg3 increase in estimated annual PM10 levels was associated with a 12% increased risk.
The study also states that the association between heart problems and particulate matter ‘remains controversial’.
The study – ‘Long term exposure to ambient air pollution and incidence of acute coronary events: prospective cohort study and meta-analysis in 11 European cohorts from the ESCAPE Project’ – was published in the BMJ this week.
Commenting on the study results, Friends of the Earth London campaigner, Jenny Bates, said: “This study brings further evidence of the dangers of air pollution to public health – which supports the call for the EU to introduce stronger pollution limits.
“Despite the fact that tens of thousands of people die prematurely each year because of poor air quality, the UK is still failing to meet the current legal limits for pollution. The UK Government must end this national disgrace and take serious action to ensure the country meets existing targets.
She added: “And with cities posing a greater risk, and London the worst of all, the Mayor in London and local authorities must tackle traffic in the capital and not worsen it with traffic-generating road-building.â€?