Understanding where it comes from: Scientists call attention to the global public health issues caused by air pollution

People all over the world are struggling with the effects of living with air pollution for a long time. Understandably, this is a cause for everyone affected — in 2017, a white paper by the World Health Organization (WHO) on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) attributed 12.6 million deaths each year to factors that were found in the environment. Of these “environmental factors,” the study identified air pollution (both ambient and household) as the leading cause of environmentally triggered NCDs, followed by second-hand smoke, and chemical exposure.

However, fully understanding how air pollution impacts human health requires further studies to be done in areas where it is rampant and diverse, according to an article published in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health.  The piece, penned by Cathryn Tonne of the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL) in Barcelona, Spain, commented on a recent report that speculates that acute exposure to particulates present in air pollution heightens that risk of disease and death in low and middle-income countries (LMIC).

The previous study conducted by Katherine Newell and her team add even more to the growing evidence that link air pollution with each major organ system. “Previous systematic reviews have yielded convincing evidence of the effect of short-term exposure to particulate matter on cardiorespiratory mortality and hospital admissions, including for myocardial infarction, heart failure, and stroke,” explained Tonne, who is also a professor at Pompeu Fabra University in Spain. (Related: Air pollution linked to anxiety symptoms covered up by mind-damaging psych drugs.)

In that study, the research team found that increased exposure to 10 micrograms per cubic meters (?g/m3) in particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) was linked to an upswing of instances of cardiovascular disease in LMICs. The same association was noted for PM10 as well.

The article points out the limited studies that have been done regarding the effects of long-term pollution in LMICs. There were 91 studies that fit the criteria; however, only four investigated long-term effects of air pollution, and their results used PM10 as a baseline. Moreover, the noted studies were time-series studies and case-crossover studies that correlated daily levels of pollution and incidences of death or hospital admissions. The previous research also highlights the scarcity of studies that link long-term exposure to PM2.5 particulates with cases of cardiorespiratory mortality and morbidity in areas beyond North America and Western Europe.

“Ambient monitoring is less available in LMICs than in high-income countries, and what is available, rarely covers rural areas,” she explains in the report. “Additionally, LMICs tend to have a greater diversity of local sources of air pollution (e.g., crop and trash burning, biomass-fuel use, and culturally specific sources), which are difficult to capture with routinely available land-use or remote-sensing data.”

In particular, this lack of research in LMICs is one of the constraints of the Global Burden of Disease study in accurately determining how much does air pollution contributes to the development and spread of disease. The article underscores the need for more “direct epidemiological evidence” between long-term exposure to air pollution and its effects on the human body. While the previous study evaluated the effects of short-term exposures, this may provide a limited explanation of how pollution fully impacts cardiorespiratory health.

Tonne propounds future studies to further analyze the relationship between long-term exposure to particulates and its effects on LMICs.

Learn more about air pollution and how it truly impacts your body by going to Pollution.news today.

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