Reducing air pollution results in immediate health improvements

Just four weeks after reducing air pollution at its source, asthma hospitalisations fell by more than 40% and all-cause death rates decreased by 16%, according to research published in the American Thoracic Society’s journal.

Researchers at the Environmental Committee of the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) analysed various interventions made to reduce air pollution in order to see the long-term health outcomes. 

One case study that they examined was the 13-month closure of a highly polluting steel mill in Utah, they found that after the closure, hospitalisations for pneumonia, bronchitis, and asthma were cut by half in the first four weeks. 

They also found that daily mortality rate fell by 16% for every 100 µg/m3 PM10 decrease, school absences decreased by 40% and women who were pregnant during the mill closure were less likely to have premature births. 

During the 1996 Olympic Games various roads were closed in Atlanta as part of a 17-day ‘transportation strategy,’ the researchers found that this strategy greatly decreased air pollution, and consequently in the following four weeks, children’s visits to asthma clinics dropped by more than 40%. 

The researchers went onto examine the impact that reducing air pollution could have on the American economy, they highlighted the estimated savings from avoided health care just 25 years after enforcing a Clean Air Act would be 2 trillion dollars. 

Dr. Schraufnagel, lead author of the report said: ‘We knew there were benefits from pollution control, but the magnitude and relatively short time duration to accomplish them were impressive. 

‘Our findings indicate almost immediate and substantial effects on health outcomes followed reduced exposure to air pollution. 

‘It is critical that governments adopt and enforce WHO guidelines for air pollution immediately. 

‘Air pollution is largely an avoidable health risk that affects everyone. 

‘Urban grown, expanding industrialisation, global warming, and new knowledge of the harm of air pollution raise the degree of urgency for pollution control and stress the consequences of inaction. 

‘Fortunately, reducing air pollution can result in prompt and substantial health gains. Sweeping policies affecting a whole country can reduce all-cause mortality within weeks.’ 

Photo Credit – Pixabay