Short-term air pollution exposure can increase death risk, study shows

Credit: Unsplash+

Air pollution is a known danger to public health, but a new study shines a light on the risks of short-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), revealing a concerning global impact.

Every year, over one million people worldwide lose their lives due to brief periods of high air pollution, with Eastern Asia bearing the brunt of these premature deaths.

Traditionally, research has centered on the health effects of consistent, high-level pollution in urban environments.

However, the study from Monash University, published in The Lancet Planetary Health, breaks new ground by assessing the impact of short-term spikes in PM2.5 pollution across more than 13,000 cities and towns globally, covering the two decades up to 2019.

These short-term pollution spikes can be caused by various factors, including landscape fires, dust storms, and other sudden pollution events.

Remarkably, the study found that such brief exposure periods are responsible for a significant number of early deaths each year, especially in Asia and Africa. Urban areas, with their dense populations and high pollution levels, accounted for over 22% of these deaths.

The research, led by Professor Yuming Guo, underscores the importance of understanding the global and local impacts of short-term air pollution exposure.

Events like Australia’s Black Summer of 2019–2020, which led to hundreds of smoke-related premature deaths and thousands of hospital admissions, highlight the acute health risks posed by sudden increases in air pollution.

The study’s findings are alarming, with Asia experiencing approximately 65.2% of the global mortality linked to short-term PM2.5 exposure.

Africa, Europe, the Americas, and Oceania also feel the effects, but to varying degrees. Eastern Asia, in particular, suffers disproportionately, with over half of these deaths occurring in this region alone.

In contrast, Australia saw a slight decrease in the number of deaths attributable to short-term PM2.5 exposure over the study period.

However, the proportion of deaths linked to such pollution events in Australia increased, suggesting that extreme weather-related air pollution events, like bushfires, are becoming more frequent and severe.

This study emphasizes the critical need for targeted interventions to protect public health.

By implementing air-pollution warning systems and community evacuation plans, cities and towns can better prepare for and mitigate the acute health effects of sudden air pollution spikes.

The research serves as a call to action for global and local policymakers to address the dangers of short-term air pollution and safeguard the health of populations worldwide.

If you care about wellness, please read studies about how ultra-processed foods and red meat influence your longevity, and why seafood may boost healthy aging.

For more information about wellness, please see recent studies that olive oil may help you live longer, and vitamin D could help lower the risk of autoimmune diseases.

The research findings can be found in The Lancet Planetary Health.

Copyright © 2024 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.