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A causal link between air pollution and premature death has been established
Long-term exposure to particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone is associated with a significantly shorter life expectancy. This shows how important it is that the air pollution that occurs is effectively reduced.
In a new study by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has been found that exposure to particulate matter has a significant impact on life expectancy. The results were published in the English-language journal “Sciences Advances”.
Data from 68.5 million people evaluated
For the current study, the researchers analyzed the data of 68.5 million people who received Medicare (special health insurance) benefits in the USA (97 percent of the US population over the age of 65) from the age of 16. Factors such as body mass index, smoking, ethnicity, income and education were taken into account in the analysis. When assessing daily PM2.5 air pollution, researchers also considered satellite data, land use information, weather variables, and other factors. They used two traditional statistical approaches and three state-of-the-art approaches to work out cause and effect.
PM, 2.5 and ozone reduce life expectancy
The new research is based on a study from 2017. This had shown that long-term exposure to PM2.5 pollution and ozone, even at levels below current US air quality standards, increased the risk of premature death for older people in the United States.
Older people are particularly at risk
The research group evaluated the largest data set of older people in the United States to date and used several analytical methods, including statistical methods for causal reasoning, to show that current US standards for PM2.5 concentrations do not offer sufficient protection. A reduction could protect particularly vulnerable groups, such as the elderly.
Results from five analytical methods were consistent
Results were consistent across all five different types of analysis performed. The researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said in a press release that this is the most robust and reproducible evidence to date of the causal relationship between exposure to PM2.5 and mortality.
How would a reduction in PM2.5 load affect?
The research group found that an annual decrease in PM2.5 exposure by 10 μg / m3 would result in a six to seven percent decrease in the risk of death. Based on this result, the researchers estimate that reducing the annual PM2.5 standard to 10 μg / m3 in the United States could save 143,257 lives in a decade alone.
What about fine dust pollution in Germany?
Fine dust emissions in Germany have decreased significantly since 1995. However, the share of fine dust in total dust increased significantly over the years due to the much more pronounced decrease in total dust emissions, reports the German Federal Environment Agency in a press release.
A reduction of 26 percent in emissions compared to 2005 was planned by 2020. This emerges from an emission reduction obligation for PM2.5 for Germany. This obligation was also adopted in the new version of the directive on national emission ceilings and supplemented with a specification for 2030. By this time, the German PM2.5 emissions should be reduced by 43 percent, based on the values from 2005. (as)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- X. Wu, D. Braun, J. Schwartz, M.A. Kioumourtzoglou, F. Dominici1: Evaluating the impact of long-term exposure to fine particulate matter on mortality among the elderly, in Sciences Advances (published June 26, 2020), Sciences Advances
- Emission of fine dust of particle size PM2.5, Federal Environment Agency (published 07/26/2019), Federal Environment Agency
- More evidence of causal link between air pollution and early death, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Published Jun 26, 2020), Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health