More studies link air pollution to lung cancer and heart failure

Air pollution has already been associated to a range of serious health problems, and two new studies published in The Lancet, have further linked pollution to lung cancer and to heart failure.

The European Union already has stringent air quality limits for pollution - which comes from traffic and household heating and industries - and despite action taken by governments to curb emissions in these last years, the two studies showed that even low levels of air pollution for a prolonged period of time could raise the risk.

One of the studies is from The European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects (ESCAPE) that used data from 17 studies in nine European countries, and monitored around 313,000 people for an average of 13 years.

The researchers were looking at the effect of long-term exposure to nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, with diameters of less than 2.5 micrometers and those with less than 10 micrometers.

2,095 people from the study developed lung cancer, and the study discovered that for every 5 micrograms per cubic meter of particulates with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, lung cancer risk increased by 18%.

While for every 10 microgram per cubic meter increase of particulates with a diameter of less than 10 micrometers, there was a 22% increase in the risk, but they did not find any association between lung cancer and nitrogen oxides.

The second study was led by Nicholas Mills from Edinburgh University and funded by the British Heart Foundation.

This study looked at heart failure hospitalizations and deaths, and researchers included 35 studies from 12 different countries, and how they related to the increase of pollutants, including carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone and particulate matter, PM2.5 and PM10.

Here researchers found that risk of being hospitalized and dying due to heart failure was increased by 3.52% for every 1 part per million increase of carbon monoxide levels, 2.36 % for every increaseof 10 parts per billion of sulfur dioxide, 1.7% for every 10 parts per billion increase in nitrogen dioxide and 2% every 10 micrograms per cubic meter increase of particulate matter, while increases in ozone was not linked to heart failure.

"Heart failure is a common, costly, and fatal condition affecting more than 20 million people worldwide and is one of the most frequent reasons for hospital admission," said lead author Nicholas Mills.

"Since the entire population is exposed to air pollution, even modest reductions in air pollution could have major cardiovascular health benefits and substantial healthcare cost savings."

"There is now no doubt that fine particles are a cause of lung cancer. Air pollution contributes to heart disease both through long and short term exposure and there is no doubt that reducing air pollution will reduce the burden from heart disease."

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