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How health effects of pollution linger

Tuesday February 9th, 2016

People exposed to persistent air pollution decades ago still live with the health consequences, according to a UK study published today.

Researchers said air pollution affected mortality from cardiovascular disease and increased risks for respiratory diseases including bronchitis and pneumonia.

The research, published in the journal Thorax, studied air pollution levels recorded in 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001.

The researchers say the health effects from pollution can linger for at least 30 years.

The researchers say levels of pollution in 2001 were much lower for many people than in 1971, when there were still high levels of exposure to black smoke.

They found that for every unit of pollution in 1971 that a person experienced, their risk of mortality in the first decade of the 2000s increased by 2%.

Researcher Dr Rebecca Ghosh, of Imperial College, London, said: "Putting this in context, an individual who lived in a higher polluted area in 1971 had a 14% higher risk of dying in 2002 to 2009 than someone who had lived in a lower polluted area.

“An individual living in a higher polluted area in 2001 also had an increased risk of mortality of 14% compared to someone in a low pollution area.”

Fellow researcher Dr Anna Hansell said: "We were surprised to find pollution has effects on mortality that persist over three decades after exposure."

She added: "It's important to remember that the effects of air pollution are small compared to other risk factors. Your risk of dying early is much more dependent on other aspects of your lifestyle, like whether you smoke, how much you exercise, whether you are overweight, as well as on medical factors like your blood pressure.

“This was true even with the higher air pollution levels in the 1970s.”

Historic air pollution exposure and long-term mortality risks in England and Wales: prospective longitudinal cohort study. Thorax 9 February 2016; doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2015-207111.

Tags: General Health | Heart Health | Respiratory | Traveller Health | UK News

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