A University of Texas at Austin study shows that improving air quality may lead to changes in the rates of health problems such as lung cancer and stroke.
Prior research has emphasized the health implications of breathing polluted air. This new study is the first detailed analysis of how improvements in particulate air pollution worldwide would yield improvement in health, and where those improvements would occur.
The researchers looked at outdoor air pollution from particulate matter (PM) smaller than 2.5 microns. Those particles can enter deep into the lungs. Breathing PM is associated with increased risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular disease; respiratory illnesses such as emphysema; and cancer. PM pollution comes from fires, coal power plants, cars and trucks, and agricultural and industrial emissions. In low-income countries, PM also comes from burning coal, wood, crop waste and animal dung for cooking and heating, and from open burning of trash.
“We wanted to determine how much cleaner different parts of the world would need to be in order to substantially reduce death from particulate matter,” said Apte. “We believe our model could help in designing strategies to protect public health.”