Developmental Biology - Air Pollution|
Reducing Air Pollution Produces Dramatic Results
Dramatic health benefits follow air pollution reduction...
Reducing air pollution has yielded dramatic impacts on health-outcomes — and fast. Decreases were found in all-causes of morbidity and recorded in "Health Benefits of Air Pollution Reduction," published in the American Thoracic Society's journal, Annals of the American Thoracic Society.
The study was done by the Environmental Committee of the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) which reviewed interventions that reduced air pollution at its source. The study looked for outcomes and time to achieve those outcomes in several settings. It found that the improvements in health were striking.
Starting at week one of a ban on smoking in Ireland, as one example, there was a 13 percent drop in all-causes of mortality. There was a 26% reduction in ischemic heart disease, a 32% reduction in stroke, and a 38% reduction in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Interestingly, the greatest benefits occurred among non-smokers.
"We knew there were benefits from pollution control, but the magnitude and relatively short time duration to accomplish them were impressive," said lead author of the report, Dr. Dean Schraufnagel MD, ATSF.
"Our findings indicate almost immediate and substantial effects on health outcomes followed reduced exposure to air pollution. It's critical that governments adopt and enforce WHO guidelines for air pollution immediately."
In the United States, a 13-month closure of a steel mill in Utah resulted in reduced hospitalizations for pneumonia, pleurisy, bronchitis and asthma by half. School absenteeism decreased by 40 percent, and daily mortality fell by 16 percent for every 100 ?g/m3 PM10 (a pollutant) decrease.
Women who were pregnant during the mill closing were less likely to have premature births.
In Atlanta, Georgia USA following a 17-day "transportation strategy" during the 1996 Olympic Games, parts of the city were closed to help athletes make it to their events on time. This reduction in traffic greatly decreased air pollution.
In the following four weeks, children's visits for asthma to clinics dropped by more than 40% and trips to emergency departments by 11%. Hospitalizations for asthma decreased by 19%.
Similarly, when China imposed factory and travel restrictions for the Beijing Olympics, lung function improved within two months, with fewer asthma-related physician visits and less cardiovascular mortality. In addition to city-wide polices, reducing air pollution within the home also led to health benefits.
In Nigeria, families who had clean cook stoves that reduced indoor air pollution during a nine-month pregnancy term, saw higher birthweights, greater gestational age at delivery and less perinatal mortality.
The report also examined the impact of environmental policies economically. It highlights that 25 years after enactment of the Clean Air Act, the United States EPA estimated that the health benefits exceeded the cost by 32:1, saving 2 trillion dollars, and has been heralded as one of the most effective public health policies of all time in the United States.
Emissions of the major pollutants (particulate matter [PM], sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and lead) were reduced by 73% between 1990 and 2015 while the United States gross domestic product grew by more than 250%.
"Air pollution is largely an avoidable health risk that affects everyone. Urban growth, expanding industrialization, 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. Local programs, such as reducing traffic, have also promptly improved many health measures."
Dean Schraufnagel MD, ATSF and lead author of the report.
Air pollution is a grave risk to human health that affects nearly everyone in the world and nearly every organ in the body. Fortunately, it is largely a preventable risk. Reducing pollution at its source can have a rapid and substantial impact on health. Within a few weeks, respiratory and irritation symptoms, such as shortness of breath, cough, phlegm, and sore throat, disappear; school absenteeism, clinic visits, hospitalizations, premature births, cardiovascular illness and death, and all-cause mortality decrease significantly. The interventions are cost-effective. Reducing factors causing air pollution and climate change have strong cobenefits. Although regions with high air pollution have the greatest potential for health benefits, health improvements continue to be associated with pollution decreases even below international standards. The large response to and short time needed for benefits of these interventions emphasize the urgency of improving global air quality and the importance of increasing efforts to reduce pollution at local levels.
Dean E. Schraufnagel, John R. Balmes, Sara De Matteis, Barbara Hoffman, Woo Jin Kim, Rogelio Perez-Padilla, Mary Rice, Akshay Sood, Aneesa Vanker and Donald J. Wuebbles.
This research was funded through the Biosphere Evolution, Transitions and Resilience (BETR) programme, which is co-funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).
M.B.F. and F.C.-H. designed experiments. F.C.-H. performed experiments and data analysis.
Declaration of Interests
The authors declare no competing interest.
The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH F31EY028022-03, RO1EY019498, RO1EY013528, P30EY003176).
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