Study Finds Link between Polluted Air and Smoking

A new study has found a link between polluted air and smoking. The long-term exposure to air pollution is just like smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for many years. Just like smoking, exposure to air pollution can lead to emphysema.

The study was published in the medical journal JAMA. It looked at air pollution exposure, ground-level ozone, fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, and black carbon. 7000 adults aged 45 to 84 were studied for over a decade in six US metropolitan areas that are Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles,  New York City, St. Paul, Minnesota, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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Researchers found out the link between exposure to air pollution and development of emphysema, a lung condition that causes breath shortness, normally associated with cigarette smoking. It’s a weakening chronic disease that reduces the oxygen amount that reaches your bloodstream.

Dr. R. Graham Barr said, “The increase in emphysema we observed was relatively large, similar to the lung damage caused by 29 pack-years of smoking and 3 years of aging.”

Adding, “These findings matter since ground-level ozone levels are rising, and the amount of emphysema on CT scans predicts hospitalization from and deaths due to chronic lower respiratory disease. Ground-level ozone is produced when UV light reacts with pollutants from fossil fuels. This process is accelerated by heatwaves, so ground-level ozone will likely continue to increase unless additional steps are taken to reduce fossil fuel emissions and curb climate change. But it’s not clear what level of ozone, if any, is safe for human health.”

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