Continuous exposure to air pollution has been linked to a host of diseases, from lung to brain, in people of all ages. It follows that reducing exposure to toxic air should have health benefits. And indeed, that's what the authors of a new study have found.
In fact, researchers from the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) Environmental Committee say the health benefits can be quite dramatic. "Reducing pollution at its source can have a rapid and substantial impact on health," they explain in the article published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.
“In a few weeks, respiratory and irritation symptoms disappear, such as shortness of breath, cough, phlegm and sore throat; school absenteeism, visits to clinics, hospitalizations, premature births, cardiovascular diseases and death, and mortality from all causes decrease significantly ", they clarify.
They came to this conclusion after reviewing the results of several interventions around the world that have served to reduce the extent of air pollution at its source. They then evaluated the results and examined how long it took for them to manifest. The results were revealing.
In Ireland, for example, during the early stages of the smoking ban, health benefits included a 13% drop in all-cause mortality, a 26% drop in the rate of ischemic heart disease, a drop in 32% in the number of strokes, and a 38% drop in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Not only that, but non-smokers also benefited greatly from the smoking ban. That may not come as a surprise, as secondhand smoking is known to have adverse health effects on non-smokers who are exposed to cigarette smoke.
Meanwhile, a 13-month closure of a steel mill in Utah, in the United States, led to a state of affairs in which hospitalizations for pneumonia, pleurisy, bronchitis and asthma were cut in half. Daily mortality decreased 16% for every 100 μg / m3 decrease in PM10 (a pollutant). Pregnant women were less likely to have preterm births, while children's absenteeism from school also decreased by 40%.
In Nigeria, where indoor cooking has long been a health hazard, especially for poor families, in families that reduced indoor air pollution at home by using clean cooking stoves, more women gave birth to children With higher birth weights, they experienced a higher gestational age at delivery, and had lower perinatal mortality, the researchers say.
"We knew there were benefits from pollution control, but the magnitude and relatively short time to achieve them were impressive," said Dean Schraufnagel, a physician who was the lead author of the report. “Our findings indicate almost immediate and substantial effects on health outcomes after reduced exposure to air pollution. It is essential that governments adopt and implement the WHO guidelines for air pollution immediately ”.