A recent study published in the Science Advances journal has found out that exposure to fine air particles would increase the risk of premature death.
The research suggests that improving existing standards and regulations concerning air pollution in the United States would save more than 140,000 lives in the next decade.
Air quality standards are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or EPA. The agency measures and suggests the levels of pollutants that authorities must stick to.
In most cases, these benchmarks are based on scientific research that shows the deteriorating effects of air pollution on our health.
Over the last 5 decades, safe levels have gradually dropped when new studies are conducted.
Many studies have linked fine air particles to respiratory and cardiovascular problems.
These elements might come from different sources, especially construction sites or fires. They would form when chemicals react with air pollutants as well.
Living or working in areas with low air standards would have negative effects on health. However, there is still no justified evidence to verify this causal relationship.
The authors of this research implemented an extensive and comprehensive study to find out the answer to this problem.
Data were collected from around 68,5 million people who participated in the Medicare program over the course of 16 years. They included more than 97 percent of people older than 65 years old.
Included features include education, ethnicity, income, smoking status, and BMI.
By recording the zip codes of all participants, scientists can check their locations and levels of pollution in each area. Also, they took into account important elements that would affect the results, such as land use and weather conditions.
Five forms of analysis, including both new and traditional approaches, were applied in the research.
The results showed a clear causal relationship between high risk of mortality and levels of fine particles in the air.
This was true even for levels below the existing maximum of 12 μg/m3 each year.
The scientists estimate that it would save more than 140,000 people in the next 10 years by reducing the level to 10 μg/m3 each year, which is the recommended level of the World Health Organization.
In other words, the current standards are not enough to protect vulnerable people, especially the elderly.
The authors of the study hope that the findings would inform policymakers and update better regulations to save thousands of lives.