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Long-Term Exposure To Air Pollution May Increase Risk of Cardiovascular and Respiratory Illnesses

Air pollution creates microscopic pollutants that can penetrate deep into the respiratory and circulatory system and cause damage to the lungs, heart and brain. A new study suggests that long-term exposure to air pollutants may increase the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses in mature adults.

For their study, the researchers used data from the records of approximately 63 million people over the age of 65 who were enrolled in Medicare. They looked at the effect of long-term exposure to fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone on hospital admissions for heart attack, stroke, atrial fibrillation, and pneumonia. Participants’ residential zip codes were used to determine exposure to air pollution.

Long-term exposure to fine particulate matter was found to increase the risk of hospitalization due to heart attack, stroke, atrial fibrillation, and pneumonia. The greatest risk was seen for stroke. Long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide was found to increase the risk of hospitalization due to stroke and atrial fibrillation. Long-term ozone exposure was related to an increased risk of hospitalization due to pneumonia. All three pollutants were associated with these increased risks even at low concentrations.

The study was conducted by researchers from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. It was published online ahead of print on February 22, 2021 in the journal Circulation.

 

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