Danger in the Air?

Pollution Could Zap Exercise Benefits

By J.A. Giresi

We all know that the air in some parts of the country (and world) is very polluted, but just how polluted? Well, that was the question posed by the New England Journal of Medicine. It turns out that our air, even in areas where levels are deemed “healthy,” can be bad. What’s worse is that the quality of the air can be a cause of premature death for the elderly, those with respiratory ailments such as asthma, or young people.

The study’s data used satellite, meteorological and other sources of extensive data that was taken from over 3,800 monitoring stations managed by the EPA, and researchers surveyed daily air pollution levels nationwide. This study, conducted over a period of seven years, recorded close to 22.5 million deaths. That’s staggering!

More so, the researchers found that when it came to warmer weather, the output of ozone was linked to a 1.1 increase. According to an article published in The New York Times, the average tolerance of 12 is thought to be safe. When we say “12,” we are referring to “micrograms per cubic meter in particles smaller than 2.5 microns, or PM 2.5.” The average PM 2.5 in the study period went from 6.25 to 15.65. In the warmer seasons, ozone concentrations ranged from 36.27 to 55.86— and a level of 70 is thought to be a safe zone. A recent study done by New York City showed the danger that the air could impose to cyclists who could be incurring lung damage as they are riding or even walking. In fact, the study went so far to add that the health benefits of cycling or walking could be cancelled out by the quality of the air.

The bottom line is this— we need to do something to get our air pollution under control. Air pollution is thought to be one of the main causes of premature death in our country and throughout the world. Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the New York Times that, “…. when you have a large study that shows the current level of air pollution is toxic – I hope that’s something we can do something about.” Dr. Dominici is also one of the authors of the current study.

References:

Can air pollution negate the health benefits of cycling and walking? http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743516000402

New England Journal of Medicine. Air Pollution and Mortality in the Medicare Population. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1702747#iid=f01

The New York Times. Tuesday, July 18, 201. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/28/well/even-safe-pollution-levels-can-be-deadly.html7

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