A new study details the drastic improvements in health outcomes resulting from reducing air pollution across different countries, including the United States.
There is no doubt about the adverse effects of air pollution on health.
Some of Medical News Today’s reports have examined potential cardiovascular and neurological risks, as well as linkages between air pollution and diabetes, among other health effects.
But what is the effect of public health interventions that reduce pollution? In the hope of answering this question, an investigation is carried out by the Environmental Committee of the International Respiratory Societies Forum in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The study appears in the journal of the American Thoracic Society (ATS), the American Thoracic Society’s Annals.
The report’s lead author is Dr. Dean Schraufnagel of the ATS. Dr. Schraufnagel and his team looked at U.S., Western Europe, Asia, and Africa air pollution interventions.
One of the main findings of the study concerns the effects of smoking ban in Ireland. The report found a 13% decrease in mortality from any cause, a 26% drop in ischemic heart disease, and a 32% drop in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) cases.
The study also details the effects of the 13-month closure of a steel mill in Utah. As a result, hospitals, particularly among children, saw reduced admissions for pneumonia, pleurisy, bronchitis, and asthma.
The closure of the steel mill also reduced school absenteeism by 40% and the daily mortality rate. Shutting down the steel mill has halved the air pollutant concentration for just 13 months.
In addition, the closing of the mill resulted in a 16 percent reduction in deaths for every 100 micrograms (μg)/cubic meters (m3) of air pollutants.
Finally, women pregnant during the shutdown were far less likely to have premature births than those pregnant before or after the shutdown. This was particularly true of women who were during the closure in their second trimester.
One example the study examined was the “alternative transport plan” introduced in Atlanta, GA in the summer of 1996 when the city hosted the Olympics. The City of Atlanta closed down portions of its downtown to private cars during this initiative to help athletes travel more easily to their events.
The city replaced the closure of this part with public transport and other options of telecommuting. The effect was a drop in daily peak ozone concentrations of 28 percent.
Medicaid records showed a 42 percent drop in hospital visits associated with childhood asthma four weeks after the closure.
Pediatric visits to the emergency department decreased by 11% and total asthma-related hospitalizations declined by 19%.
During the 2008 Olympic Games, a similar phenomenon took place in China. Government-issued factory and travel controls between July 1 and September 20 contributed to a drop in air pollutant levels of up to 62 percent.
The lead author of the study commented on the findings, saying, “Air pollution is a largely avoidable health risk that affects everyone.”
“Urban growth, expanding industrialization, global warming, and new knowledge of the harm of air pollution are among the factors that raise the degree of urgency for pollution control and stress the consequences of inaction,” carefulness or cautions of Dr. Schraufnagel.
“Fortunately, reducing air pollution can lead to prompt and substantial health gains. Sweeping policies affecting an entire country can reduce all-cause mortality within weeks. Local programs, such as traffic reduction, have also improved many health measures promptly.”
“We knew there were benefits from pollution control, but the magnitude and relatively short time duration to accomplish them were impressive.”he added.
Dean Schraufnagel said that: “Our findings indicate almost immediate and substantial effects on health outcomes followed reduced exposure to air pollution. It’s critical that governments adopt and enforce WHO guidelines for air pollution immediately.”


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