Thursday 1 December 2022
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Street-Level Air Pollution Increases Heart Problems In Elderly, Research Shows

Heavy Smoke at Oil Refinery

Street-level air pollution is increasing health risks in the elderly, research finds. According to a study recently published in the journal Environmental Health, street-level differences in long-term exposure to air pollutants are associated with higher risk of heart disease and heart attacks in the elderly.

The research was conducted by scientists from the Environmental Defense Fund and Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s Division of Research. Researchers studied the electronic health records of 40,000 Oakland, CA residents alongside the air quality of those residents’ streets.

The study showed a 16% increase in diagnosed heart attacks in areas where the NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) concentrations were higher.

Areas where black carbon concentrations were higher were associated with a 15% higher risk of heart attack or dying from heart disease compared to the general population.

The health effects on the general population of adults weren’t statistically significant and were consistent with those found in previous studies.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the study’s conclusion is just one part of a growing body of evidence pointing to the elderly’s susceptibility to air pollution. This is especially troubling considering the number of Americans over the age of 65 are expected to double to more than 98 million by 2060.

The problems with air pollution aren’t limited only to Oakland, either. New York State has its own fair share of air pollution problems.

In fact, New York State currently has an ozone advisory in effect.

“With 80% of the U.S. population living in urban areas and cardiovascular disease contributing to one-in-six health care dollars spent, it is critical that we better understand what is driving health disparities in cities,” said Ananya Roy, co-author of the Environmental Health study.

“Local action requires local information,” Roy said. “While researchers have been able to study air pollution and health effects across populations in large neighborhoods, towns or cities, accurately evaluating and quantifying risks from air pollution at street level has been elusive until now.”

Stacey Alexeeff, the lead author of the study, says their research shows the power of analyzing comprehensive health records when conducting environmental health research.

Additional research methods can also be used to study the direct impact of environmental health and personal health on patients.

For instance, one recent study used magnetic resonance imaging to determine how diet impacts cognitive abilities. Healthier diets including grass-fed beef (higher omega-3 fatty acids, more vitamins A and E) and fruit juice (100% fruit juice equals one serving of fruit) were found to be linked to larger brains and improve cognitive ability.

The Environmental Defense Fund intends to use a variety of methods including air quality monitoring and other types of research to develop environmental innovations and actionable visions. The goal is not only to analyze and collect data but to come up with solutions to the findings.

Steven Hamburg, the Chief Scientist at EDF, says the Environmental Defense Fund plans to build on past and new research by expanding to other research communities. The idea is to explore other types of data to collect and analyze them. This may help to accurately pinpoint environmental threats in a way that’s scalable.

“We hope to empower people with this new information, driving solutions that improve the health of millions,” Hamburg said.