A large study suggests breathing in tiny particles of toxic chemicals from the air could lead to an increased risk of premature death, according to HealthDay. The study included information from more than 560,000 men and women who were between 50 and 71 years of age, and the participants completed health and diet surveys conducted by the US National Institutes of Health and AARP. Information was also collected on the amount and type of air pollution where the participants lived.

The research team found that an increase in the amount of fine particles in the air increased the risk of death from heart disease by approximately 10%. Nonsmokers in the study had a 27% increased risk of death from lung disease when exposed to increased levels of chemical particles.

After accounting for other factors that could impact health and longevity, the researchers determined that gender, age, and education didn’t alter the effects of exposure to fine particulate matter.

The authors of the study plan to continue their research and investigate what components of particulate matter are most toxic, according to HealthDay. In addition, they hope to determine the course of these pollutants.

George Thurston, lead investigator of the study, says, “Our data add to a growing body of evidence that particulate matter is really harmful to health, increasing overall mortality, mostly deaths from cardiovascular disease, as well as deaths from respiratory disease in nonsmokers.”

Senior investigator of the study Richard Hayes says, “We need to better inform policymakers about the types and sources of particulate pollution so they know where to focus regulations. It is especially important to continue monitoring health risks as national standards for air pollution are strengthened.”

Source: HealthDay