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Short-Term Exposure to Low Levels of Air Pollution Deadly for Seniors

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By    |   Wednesday, 27 Dec 2017 11:28 AM

Levels of air pollution well below current safety standards raise the risk of premature death among senior citizens, say Harvard researchers. The risk was even higher among the elderly who were female, black, or low-income.

"This is the most comprehensive study of short-term exposure to pollution and mortality to date," said the study's senior author Francesca Dominici, co-director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative. "We found that the mortality rate increases almost linearly as air pollution increases.

"Any level of air pollution, no matter how low, is harmful to human health," she said.

The study found that minute increases in ozone levels and pollutant particles called PM2.5 increased the risk of dying prematurely.

Certain subgroups were particularly vulnerable to short-term air pollution. Among people eligible for Medicaid, which is consistent with low income, the mortality increase associated with increased amounts of PM2.5 particles was three times higher than that of people not eligible for Medicaid. Women and nonwhites also faced a mortality risk that was 25 percent higher than those who were male or white.

"No matter where you live — in cities, in the suburbs, or in rural areas — as long as you breathe air pollution, you are at risk," said Qian Di, lead author of the study and a Ph.D. student in the Department of Environmental Health.

An earlier 2017 study published in the journal Atmospheric Environment measured exposure to rush hour pollutants and found that the levels of some harmful particles are much higher than previously believed.

Researchers, who measured air pollution on busy routes during Atlanta's rush hour, found that the pollution contained twice the amount of chemicals that cause oxidative stress, which is thought to be involved in the development of many diseases including respiratory and heart disease, cancer, and some types of neurodegenerative diseases.

A study from Columbia University, however, found that B vitamins can help lower the damage caused by air pollution. It found that even small amounts of the vitamins could counteract the damage caused by pollutant particles called PM2.5, which include toxins such as black carbon that cause inflammation in the lungs and throughout the body. PM2.5 particles can turn off cells in the immune system, but supplementing with B vitamins can limit their effect by up to 76 percent.

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Levels of air pollution well below current safety standards raise the risk of premature death among senior citizens, say Harvard researchers. The risk was even higher among the elderly who were female, black, or low-income."This is the most comprehensive study of short-term...
short-term, exposure, air, pollution, deadly, seniors
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2017-28-27
Wednesday, 27 Dec 2017 11:28 AM
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