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Air pollution leads to some previously unknown dangers
Even the short-term exposure to fine dust in the air is associated with a higher risk of sepsis, kidney failure, urinary tract infections and skin and tissue infections.
The latest study by the Harvard Chan School of Public Health found that increasing air pollution is contributing to a variety of different diseases that have not previously been associated with fine dust in our air. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "BMJ".
Many diseases caused by air pollution have been known for a long time
As with previous studies, the researchers found a relationship between increased PM 2.5 particulate matter levels and an increased risk of hospitalization due to heart failure, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart attack, Parkinson's disease, diabetes complications and other diseases.
Air pollution associated with other diseases
In addition, the team found that other relatively common diseases can be triggered that have not previously been associated with PM2.5 exposure. These included, for example, sepsis, kidney failure, urinary tract infections and skin and tissue diseases.
The result: increased hospital stays
In the United States, with a population of around 330 million people, a short-term increase in PM2.5 values of one microgram per cubic meter corresponds to an additional 5,692 hospitalizations and 634 deaths per year, the researchers report.
How high can the PM2.5 value be according to the WHO?
The research group conducted a separate analysis that only evaluated data where the PM2.5 values were below the current guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) for air pollution of 25 micrograms per cubic meter over a period of 24 hours.
An increased risk even if the limit values are observed
Even with these values, there was an increased risk of hospital admission. It is not surprising that air pollution is linked to health problems, many of which have been known for a long time. However, the study indicated that PM2.5 exposure is associated with many more health problems than previously thought - even if the WHO limit values are met.
Hospital admissions for heart failure increased sharply
The largest increase in hospital admissions has been caused by heart failure, which is already known to be related to PM2.5 levels. The identified new health risks are relatively small, but should still be kept in mind, emphasize the researchers.
Other factors can also play a role
The study does not reveal whether the diseases identified are directly related to pollution or whether other factors are involved. For example, activities such as smoking, alcohol consumption and physical exertion can also trigger hospital admissions, which can vary depending on air pollution.
Were there any restrictions on the exam?
It is just a so-called observational study, which had the usual limitations. Cause and effect could not be proven. In addition, only people aged 65 and over were examined.
We have to reduce air pollution
The study provides further evidence that PM2.5 pollution, which is mainly caused by vehicle emissions and the burning of fossil fuels, is bad for health. A significant reduction in air pollution is therefore urgently needed, also from a health point of view. (as)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Yaguang Wei, Yan Wang, Qian Di, Christine Choirat, Yun Wang et al .: Short term exposure to fine particulate matter and hospital admission risks and costs in the Medicare population: time stratified, case crossover study, in BMJ (query: 29.11. 2019), BMJ