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Long-Term Low-Level Air Pollution Tied to Increase in Natural Deaths

Last Updated: September 17, 2021.

FRIDAY, Sept. 17, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Long-term exposure to outdoor air pollution is associated with higher mortality, even for exposures below current standards, according to a study published online Sept. 2 in The BMJ.

Maciej Strak, Ph.D., from the Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and colleagues conducted a pooled analysis of eight European cohorts (325,367 adults followed for an average of 19.5 years) to investigate the associations between air pollution and mortality.

The researchers found that higher exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide, and black carbon was associated with a significantly increased risk for almost all outcomes. For each 5-μg/m3 increase in PM2.5, there was an associated 13 percent increase in natural deaths, whereas for a 10-μg/m3 increase in nitrogen dioxide, there was an 8.6 percent increase in deaths. Even at low concentrations, associations with PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide, and black carbon remained significant. For exposures below the U.S. standard of 12 μg/m3, an increase of 5 μg/m3 in PM2.5 was associated with a 29.6 percent increase in natural deaths.

"The finding of associations at low levels of air pollution and mortality also supports policies to reduce air pollution below current legal limit values," the authors write.

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