London, Apr 15 (UNI) Exhaust fumes from road traffic and other types of fuel combustion are causing pneumonia that is killing thousands of people every year, a new study has warned.
Lead researcher George Knox said the gases were as lethal as the infamous week-long London smog of December 1952. The findings revealed an ''exceptional''link between high rates of fatal pneumonia and exhaust fumes.
Examining the emission levels and causes of death in 352 local authority areas in England, he found 386,374 people died from the disease between 1996 and 2004, but there were wide regional variations.
In the 35 local authorities with the highest death rates, there were 53,821 deaths from pneumonia, about 15,000 more than the expected national rate.
Findings revealed that pneumonia, peptic ulcer, coronary and rheumatic heart diseases, lung and stomach cancers and other diseases were all associated with a range of combustion emissions, as well as social deprivation, smoking, binge drinking and living in the North.
He said many of the pneumonia deaths were probably caused by ''direct chemical injury'' as in the 1952 London smog, which killed 4,000 people.
The research suggests the pollutants directly damaged lung tissue because the links were so strong across all categories of exposure.
''Excess deaths'' attributed to COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and rheumatic heart disease were directly related, while pollution may have aggravated the effects of two kinds of cancer.
The study, published today in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, adds to mounting evidence of the health dangers of pollution, which is already known to play a part in asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes.
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