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The Harvard study looked at hospital discharges for people with these four types of diseases living in 34 cities between 1985 and 1999. The researchers compared this information with 12-month averages of PM10, a type of particulate matter air pollution that includes particles with a diameter of ten micrometers or less than 0.0004 inches or one-seventh the width of a human hair.
The study found that for an increase of ten micrograms/per cubic meter of PM10 over two years, the risk of dying was increased by 32% for people with diabetes, 28% for people with COPD, 27% in people with congestive heart failure, 22% for people with inflammatory disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
“The study significantly strengthens evidence that breathing in particulate matter is associated with dying sooner,” said researcher Joel Schwartz, Ph.D., Professor of Environmental Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
“While previous studies have found that long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with increased risk of death, we looked at risk of death in the first three years after patients were discharged from the hospital, and saw that the risk increased in the first couple of years. That means if we can lower air pollution levels, people will start living longer right away.”
While previous studies have linked exposure to PM10 to harmful effects on breathing and respiratory systems, damage to lung tissue, cancer, and premature death, this is the first study to follow people with specific diseases to determine their risk of death in response to particle exposure, Schwartz said.
MEDICA.de; Source: American Thoracic Society (ATS)