In a study of 4.5 million U.S veterans, researchers found that exposure to PM2.5 contributes to deadly conditions such as heart disease, strokes, chronic kidney disease, COPD, dementia, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, lung cancer and pneumonia.
The study, which was published in Jama Network compared data from the United States Veterans Health Administration database on the date of death and underlying cause of death with the levels of PM2.5 where they lived.
They adjusted the study for age, race, sex, smoking status, diet, exercise and alcohol consumption.
The researchers investigated the specific causes of death due to disease for which strong evidence exists for an association between PM2.5 exposure and the disease state.
According to the findings, excess exposure to PM2.5 was associated with 56,000 deaths due to heart disease, 40,000 strokes and 20,000 dementia-related deaths.
They also found that PM2.5 associated deaths were more prevalent in non-Hispanic Black and African Americans and those living in areas with high socioeconomic deprivation.
Worryingly, nearly all of the deaths attributable to air pollution in the U.S are associated with ambient air pollution concentrations that are below the current EPA standards.
The researchers suggest that more stringent PM2.5 air quality standards are needed to further reduce the national death toll associated with air pollution.
In related news, even when PM2.5 levels are below the World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline, researchers found that hospital admissions for diseases related to air pollution remain high.
These admissions corresponded to an added £24m in care costs for diseases that were not previously associated with PM2.5, including sepsis, kidney failure, urinary tract, and skin infections.
According to the researchers, these newly associated diseases represent around a third of the total PM2.5 associated effects, suggesting that current figures for PM2.5 associated illnesses might be underestimated.
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