Air pollution ‘significantly’ affects lung function in the elderly

Another study has found exposure to high levels of air pollution ‘significantly’ affects lung function in the elderly. 

Researchers in Taipei collected data from 1241 people over the age of 65, who attended an annual health examination between 2015 and 2016 in five hospitals with varying particulate matter (PM) concentrations in Taiwan.

Previous research in the country has shown effects of exposure to particulate matter and ozone on lung function in children but the researchers wanted to find out whether the elderly have the same response.

In 2015, the annual average PM2.5 in Taiwan was 22.55 μg/m, this is more than twice the safe level suggested by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

For the study, the lung functions of each individual was measured using a spirometer, a device that measures the movement of air in and out of the lungs.

Researchers then collected the hourly levels of pollutants from the Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) monitoring stations, to calculate the annual average.

Each individual’s exposure to air pollution was also estimated based on where they live.

The data was adjusted for variables, such as age, sex, height, weight, smoking status, and any existing respiratory illnesses.

The researchers observed significant negative effects of long-term exposure to PM2.5 on lung function in the elderly and believe that the relationship between long-term air pollution on lung function in the elderly may be used to predict mortality.

Their results were significantly higher than previous research which was conducted in an area with lower levels of pollution.

The research also showed that exposure to PM caused several health impacts, such as increased blood pressure, heart rate variability, and asthma.

The study concludes: ‘Long-term monitoring of particle composition should be done in the future to examine specific sources with related health effects.’

‘These results emphasise the constant need for stricter control of air pollution, including both fine and coarse particulate matter, and for more studies on long-term health outcomes, especially among the vulnerable population.’

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