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The Public Health Cost of Dirty Air

Friday, May 18, 2018

A new study published in the May 2018 issue of Environmental Health used high-resolution mapping of traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) with Google street-view cars and incidence of cardiovascular events within neighborhoods in Oakland, CA. The study conclusions clearly suggest that street-level differences in long-term exposure to TRAP are associated with higher risk of cardiovascular events among the elderly, indicating that within-neighborhood differences in TRAP are important to heart health.

Another peer-reviewed study published this month in Environmental Pollution proved that long-term exposure to ambient particulate matter (PM 2.5), mostly created by automobile exhaust, power plants, and industry, is associated with increased platelet counts in adults, indicating potential adverse effects on blood coaguability.

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health released a study earlier this year that suggested exposure to air pollution is associated with loss of bone mineral density and risk of bone fractures.

The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a study this month that found prenatal exposure to air pollution to be associated with childhood respiratory health outcomes in the first two years of life.

Our June 2017 Friday Pearl also addressed air pollution and its effect on public health, based on WebMD findings at that time with a long list of citations.

The well-researched WebMD article suggested air pollution to be a much bigger factor in maintaining health than previously recognized, according to findings from one of the largest studies ever to examine the issue.

"Researchers followed close to 66,000 women aged 50 to 70 living in 36 cities. All women were enrolled in the ongoing health study, the Women's Health Initiative."

The findings clearly prove that air quality is a strong predictor of declining health. "Fine particulate air pollution - caused primarily by vehicle exhausts, coal-fired power plants, and other fossil fuel sources, was the sole type of air pollution associated with lack of health in this study. When all other risk factors were equal, the researchers found that women living in the most polluted cities had the highest risk of ill health, while women living in the cleanest cities had the lowest."

Environmental epidemiologist Douglas Dockery, ScD, of the Harvard School of Public Health, told WebMD that it is now clear that fine-particle air pollutants pose a risk to health, and the scientific evidence supporting tighter restrictions, on fine-particle pollution levels are now overwhelming."

The American Heart Association spokesman Russell Luepker, MD, MS, agreed that federal regulations should be doing much more to address the problem. He said, “We have the technology to reduce the fine particle pollutants in the air, but we don't have the political will. As with many environmental issues, we now see a great deal of resistance to change."

Ellen Troyer, with Spencer Thornton, MD, David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff


The obvious question we should be asking ourselves: Should industrial profit and political resistance to change ever supersede public health? Given the vast amount of emerging science that proves air and water quality are both linked to overall health, and given the ever-rising cost of health care, please let your elected representatives know how you feel about protecting the environment, as well as government responsibility to fund EPA science that protects public health.

Jim Bridenstine, the newly confirmed head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) confirmed yesterday, "Climate is indeed changing, and  we human beings are contributing to it in a major way."  

Unfortunately, the White House is continuing to defund NASA research programs aimed at monitoring greenhouse gas emissions. 

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