Study by Harvard University links air pollution to stroke, miscarriage

Francesca Dominici of Harvard University and his colleagues analysed more than 95 million insurance claims raised between 2000 and 2012 by hospital in-patients in the US who were aged 65 or more.

Published: 01st December 2019 09:23 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st December 2019 09:23 AM   |  A+A-

delhi pollution

For representational purposes

NEW DELHI: Short-term exposure to air pollution has been linked to a staggering number of hospitalisations for health issues like strokes, brain cancer, miscarriage and mental problems, according to a recent study.

Francesca Dominici of Harvard University and his colleagues analysed more than 95 million insurance claims raised between 2000 and 2012 by hospital in-patients in the US who were aged 65 or more.

They then looked at the air pollution, focusing on PM2.5 produced by vehicles and power stations etc.  By analysing air quality data from various sources, they were able to estimate the PM2.5 levels for each patient on the basis of their home zip (pin) code. The team compared air pollution levels for each patient 
during the two days around their hospital visit with levels from other points in time.

The results backed previous studies that showed a link between short-term exposure to dirty air and conditions such as heart failure, pneumonia and heart attack. The analysis suggests that even a small average rise in PM2.5 over a two-day period is linked to an increase of 68 older people per billion who were taken to hospital with heart failure the next day. 

Put another way, the increase in air pollution raises the risk of such people ending in hospitals with heart failure by 0.14 per cent. "It has a more systemic effect on multiple pathophysiological processes such as inflammation, infection, and water electrolyte balance,” said study author Yaguang Wei, although the details were unclear.

While the study cannot prove that air pollution causes the diseases, the team say it adds weight to calls for air pollution guidelines to be reviewed.(With agency inputs)

Multiple organs hit

The team also found that septicaemia, Parkinson’s disease and urinary tract infections were also associated with poorer air quality. Author Yaguang Wei said research suggested that the ill-health effects of PM2.5 were not restricted to individual organs. 

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