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Air pollution increases risk of premature death by 20 per cent, finds study

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Washington, Jun 27: Exposure to above average levels of outdoor air pollution increases the risk of premature death by 20 per cent, and mortality risk from cardiovascular disease by 17 per cent, according to a study.

The research, published in the journal PLOS ONE, shows that along with high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking, environmental factors such as air pollution are highly predictive of people's chances of dying, especially from heart attack and stroke.

Air pollution increases risk of premature death by 20 per cent, finds study

Using wood- or kerosene-burning stoves, not properly ventilated through a chimney, to cook food or heat the home also increased overall risk of death by 23 per cent and 9 per cent, and cardiovascular death risk by 36 per cent and 19 per cent, the researchers said.

Living far from specialised medical clinics and near busy roads also increased risk of death, they said. Researchers from NYU Grossman School of Medicine and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, US, collected personal and environmental health data from 50,045 mostly poor, rural villagers living in the northeast Golestan region of Iran. All study participants were over age 40 and agreed to have their health monitored during annual visits with researchers dating as far back as 2004.

The study not only identifies environmental factors that pose the greatest risk to heart and overall health, but also adds much-needed scientific evidence from people in low- and middle income countries. Traditional research on environmental risk factors, the researchers noted, has favoured urban populations in high-income countries with much greater access to modern health care services.

Compared with those who have easier access to specialised medical services, those living farther away from clinics with catheterisation labs able to unblock clogged arteries, for example, were at increased risk of death by 1 per cent for every 10 kilometers of distance. The study also showed that the one-third of study participants who lived within 500 metres of a major roadway had a 13 per cent increased risk of death.

"Our study highlights the role that key environmental factors of indoor/outdoor air pollution, access to modern health services, and proximity to noisy, polluted roadways play in all causes of death and deaths from cardiovascular disease in particular," said study senior author and cardiologist Rajesh Vedanthan.

"Our findings help broaden the disease-risk profile beyond age and traditional personal risk factors," said Vedanthan, an associate professor at NYU Langone Health. The study showed that other environmental factors included in the analysis -- low neighbourhood income levels, increased population density, and too much nighttime light exposure -- were not independent predictors of risk of death, despite previous research in mostly urban settings suggesting otherwise.

The researchers analysed data gathered through December 2018. They then created a predictive model on overall death risk and death risk from cardiovascular disease. The researchers plan to continue their analysis and hope to apply the predictive model to other countries with the aim of fine-tuning its predictive capacity. Their new tool could serve as a guide for evaluating the effectiveness of environmental, lifestyle, and personal health changes in reducing mortality rates worldwide, they said.

PTI

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