Air pollution as harmful as one pack of cigarettes a day

Air pollution as harmful as one pack of cigarettes a day

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Air pollution increases the risk of lung diseases

Long-term exposure to air pollution is just as harmful in relation to lung diseases as smoking a packet of cigarettes every day for years.

The University of Washington's latest study found that the negative health effects of air pollution on the lungs are comparable to those of consuming a daily pack of cigarettes. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Journal of the American Medical Association".

Over 7,000 people were examined for the study

The researchers analyzed how exposure to four main pollutants affects lung health. To do this, they examined 7,071 adults aged 45 to 84 who lived in six different US cities. To do this, they measured the particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, soot and ozone values ​​outside the participants' homes and carried out CT scans to monitor the development of emphysema (destruction of the alveoli, typical in COPD) and lung decay.

Emphysema from air pollution?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is considered the third leading cause of death worldwide. After observing the participants over an average of ten years, the researchers found that long-term exposure to all pollutants is associated with an increased percentage of emphysema. The strongest association was found with so-called ground-level ozone, which was also associated with a decrease in lung function. In areas with high ozone levels, the researchers found an increase in emphysema, which was roughly equivalent to that of one packet of cigarettes a day for 29 years. It was surprising to see how much air pollution affected the progress of emphysema in lung scans, the researchers report. The effects were comparable to that of long-term cigarette smoking, the best known cause of emphysema.

More research is needed

A better understanding of what exactly causes chronic lung diseases needs to be developed. It appears that pollution from the air has a major part in it, the research group explains. The researchers also believe that the level will continue to rise unless steps are taken to reduce fossil fuel emissions and curb climate change. They emphasize that it is not yet clear which concentrations of air pollutants are harmless to humans. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Meng Wang, Carrie Pistenmaa Aaron, Jaime Madrigano, Eric A. Hoffman, Elsa Angelini et al .: Association Between Long-term Exposure to Ambient Air Pollution and Change in Quantitatively Assessed Emphysema and Lung Function, in Journal of the American Medical Association : 14.08.2019), JAMA

Video: Air Pollution Is Having A Terrible Impact On Health In China 2012 (May 2022).


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