Even mild levels of air pollution can hurt senior citizens, reports Physician’s Briefing.

The investigators linked increases in PM2.5 (particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter) pollution of 10 µg/m³ to a 7.3% increase in mortality. They also found evidence that men, blacks, and people with Medicaid eligibility faced an even higher risk of early death.

These groups may be more susceptible to the effect of population due to “living conditions, unhealthy behavior, lower access to health care, and maybe receiving poorer health care,” Dominici told HealthDay. Health conditions like chronic diseases could also play a role, she said. “If we would reduce the annual average of PM2.5 by just 1 µg/m³ nationwide, we should save 12,000 lives every year,” Dominici said. She added that reducing that level by 5 µg/m³ could save almost 64,000 lives every year.

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