Ground-level ozone linked to increased mortality

Changes in ground-level ozone were significantly associated with an increase in deaths in many U.S. cities, according to a nationwide study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The risk of death was similar for adults of all ages and slightly higher for people with respiratory or cardiovascular problems. The increase in deaths occurred at ozone levels below the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clean air standards. The study appears in the November 17, 2004, edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA.)

Ground-level ozone is a pollutant in the Earth's lower atmosphere that is formed when emissions from cars, power plants and other sources react chemically to sunlight. Stratospheric ozone, which is higher in the atmosphere, is the "ozone layer" that protects the Earth from ultraviolet radiation.

"This is one of the largest ozone pollution studies ever conducted," said lead author Michelle Bell, PhD, who was previously with the Bloomberg School of Public Health and is now an assistant professor at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

The ozone study was part of the ongoing National Morbidity Mortality and Air Pollution Study (NMMAPS) at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, which routinely assesses health effects of air pollution on a national scale. To determine the association between ozone and mortality, the researchers looked at the total number of non-injury-related deaths and cardiovascular and respiratory mortality in the 95 largest U.S. communities from 1987 to 2000. Air pollution data were supplied by the EPA. Mortality data were supplied by the National Center of Health Statistics. The researchers accounted for variables such as weather, particulate matter pollution and seasonality, which could impact mortality rates.

The researchers found that an increase of 10 par

Contact: Tim Parsons
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

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