Longevity

Longevity Briefs: Air pollution is a serious risk factor for chronic diseases

Posted on 20 October 2020

Longevity briefs provides a short summary of a novel research, medicine, or technology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Attributable fraction of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) for selected risk factors by disease group, 2016. *Ambient and household air pollution as characterized by indicator of particulate matter. For air pollution, alternative sources provide similar results: 13% and 10% instead of 14% of NCDs
Attributable fraction of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) for selected risk factors by disease group, 2016. *Ambient and household air pollution as characterized by indicator of particulate matter. For air pollution, alternative sources provide similar results: 13% and 10% instead of 14% of NCDs. Source: https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.l265

Why is this research important: Air pollution is one of the leading environmental risk to health in the world, causing up to 4.2 million deaths worldwide. It can cause immediate symptoms such as coughing, tearing, difficultly breathing, etc. On top of that air pollution may be the cause behind many different chronic ailments. Therefore, it is crucial to understand mechanisms to develop effective treatment/preventative strategies.

What did the researchers do: In this review article, researches have discussed different air pollutants, their toxicity and damage they cause. Researches also focused on different population categories and how air pollution affect them (children, vulnerable groups, pregnant women)

Key takeaway(s) from this research: Most common air pollutants are toxic gases (such as SO2, NO, CO, etc) or fine particles. They cause primary damage to the lungs, causing chronic inflammation, which in turn has a detrimental effect on the rest of the body. Also, ultrafine particles can enter the bloodstream in lungs and travel to various body organs, causing inflammation there.

Regarding different population groups, children are extremely vulnerable to air pollution, because they breathe more air per body weight unit than the adult, therefore inhaling more air pollutants. On top of that, exposure to air pollution during pregnancy leads to a higher risk of low weight infant and preterm birth. Another vulnerable group of people tend to be ethnic minorities (in countries where ethnic segregation is prevalent) and people with low socioeconomic status. They are more likely to live in a segregated community, that are near sources of air pollution (power plants, industrial complexes, busy highways, etc.) Societal changes and the commitment of resources would be crucial in order to provide health equality for vulnerable communities.


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