The health effects of exposure to smog: Researchers look at how to mitigate effects on humans and the environment

A Chinese study published in The Lancet Planetary Health looked at the effects of smog pollution on human health, and suggested a few ways to mitigate the risk associated with smog exposure. According to the study, China suffered from unprecedented heavy smog pollution in the winter of 2016 to 2017. Residents in Northern Chinese areas surrounding Beijing were the most affected, the researchers said.

The researchers noted that data on the negative effects of smog on human health were scarcely available in the country. According to the experts, the data available were mostly based on statistical records of patients and mortality. The scientists added that most smog studies did not discuss related health risks, which raise further questions about the duration and concentration of smog exposure and their impact on overall health. The researchers inferred that it would require a deeper knowledge of smog exposure in order to determine its related health effects and to effectively address them.

"Innovative and individual-based approaches are needed to assess accumulations of human exposure, study different behavioral patterns and responses of people, and understand the pollutants' impacts for specific physiological conditions of the human body. Priority actions include supporting individual-based monitoring and modelling of human exposure in urban context, assessing and improving the particulate-isolating efficiency of buildings and public facilities, and studying the effect of transportation infrastructures and travel patterns," the researchers wrote.

The researchers proposed a few measures that may potentially curb smog exposure such as wearing masks, using indoor air purifiers and riding a car instead of public transportation. (Related: Diesel fumes’ nanoparticles cause heart disease by just BREATHING polluted city air.)

Pollution exposure may raise the odds of heart diseases

Air pollution exposure may increase the risk of dying from various cardiovascular conditions, another study published in The Lancet Planetary Health revealed. The study analyzed the air quality in various Chinese cities, and was consistent with previous European research that found a link between air quality and heart health.

A team of Chinese researchers carried out a nationwide time-series analysis in 272 major cities in China from January 2013 to December 2015 as part of the study. The experts looked at China's Disease Surveillance Points system to obtain data on the country's daily cardiovascular disease mortality rates. The scientists also tapped the National Urban Air Quality Real-time Publishing Platform to gather data on the daily carbon monoxide concentrations for each examined city.

The experts then used over-dispersed generalized linear models to determine the correlation between carbon monoxide exposure and cardiovascular diseases, while Bayesian hierarchical models were utilized to attain the national and regional average associations.

The findings revealed that the total number of cardiovascular deaths in the examined cities were about eight cases per day for cardiovascular disease, three cases per day for coronary heart disease, and four cases per day for stroke. The results also showed that co-pollutant concentrations and climatic conditions including humidity and temperature were tied to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease-related death.

Furthermore, data from subgroup analyses revealed that women, people older than 75 years, and people with low levels of education had higher odds of cardiovascular deaths compared with men, younger people, and those with higher education. The researchers stressed that the findings may hold important implications that may promote the development of stricter government policies on air quality regulation.

"Overall, we found significant associations between short-term exposure to ambient carbon monoxide and cardiovascular disease mortality," the researchers concluded. "Consistent with the findings of this European study, we found that the associations in our study remained after controlling for simultaneous exposure to other pollutants. Therefore, our findings have important public health and policy implications that might encourage the government to tighten air quality standards to alleviate the adverse health effects of carbon monoxide."

Sources include:

TheLancet.com 1

TheLancet.com 2

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