Air pollution ‘kills at levels well below EU guidelines’

New research suggests that exposure to air pollution can kill at levels well below the air quality limits set by the European Union (EU).

Exposure to air pollution has long been associated with the development of serious health issues, such as lung cancer, and is an important factor in exacerbations associated with asthma.

The team of international researchers looked at data spanning almost 20 years from 367,251 residents of large cities over 13 European countries. This data came from 22 studies in the European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects (ESCAPE).

The research, published in the Lancet, calculated the average annual air pollution concentrations of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter for each resident that took part, and monitored traffic density on their nearest road, as well as total traffic on all major roads within 100 meters.

They found that the greatest health threat was from long-term exposure to fine-particle air pollution Levels below the EU limit of 25 micrograms per cubic meter posed a significant threat.

They found that for every fine-particle matter increase of 5 micrograms per cubic meter exposure in a year, the risk of dying from natural causes increased by 7%.

“Our findings show that long-term exposure to fine particulate air pollution is associated with natural-cause mortality, even at concentration ranges well below the present European annual limit.” The researchers say that EU limits “should move toward WHO recommendations”. The current World Health Organization (WHO) guideline is just 10 micrograms per cubic meter.

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