Long-term exposure to air pollution that contains high concentrations of tiny particles of soot and dust significantly increases the risk of dying from lung cancer and heart disease, according to a new nationwide study. Over many years, the danger of breathing soot-filled air in polluted cities is comparable to the health risks associated with long-term exposure to second-hand smoke, according to the authors of the study, which evaluated the effects of air pollution on human health over a 16-year period.
Previous studies have linked soot in the air to many respiratory ailments and even death, but the new study is the most definitive yet on the long-term impact of such air pollution, according to NYU School of Medicine and Brigham Young University researchers who led the study. Investigators from University of Ottawa and the American Cancer Society also collaborated on the study, which is published in this week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"This study is compelling because it involved hundreds of thousands of people in many cities across the U.S. who were followed for almost two decades," says George Thurston, Sc.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Medicine, at NYU School of Medicine, the study's co-leader.
The study assesses the impact of particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers (called fine particulate matter) in cities across the United States. It analyzed data from some 500,000 adults who were followed from 1982 to 1998 as part of an ongoing cancer study. The data, which included cause of death, were linked to air pollution levels for cities nationwide using advanced statistical modeling to control for individual risk factors, such as age, smoking status, body mass, and diet, as well as for regional differences among the study populations.
The researchers calculated that the number of deaths from lung cancer increases by 8% for every 10 micrograms of fine particulate matter per
Contact: Pam McDonnell
New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine