New Report Says Long-Term Pollution Exposure Is Akin To Smoking

You can avoid smoking like the plague but long-term pollution exposure can have the same negative effects. A new JAMA study says that constant exposure to pollution is like smoking one pack of cigarettes in a day. And like it is in the case of smoking, this exposure to pollutants can lead to emphysema.

How Are Pollution And Smoking Alike?

This large study examined the effects of air pollution on 7000 adults. These participants were in the age group of 45 to 84. During the start of the study, all the participants were healthy. Researchers followed them for more than a decade in six metropolitan areas in the United States.

They controlled factors such as their age, passive smoking, smoking, etc. which could impact their lung health negatively. The patients underwent a CT scan which found that exposure to pollutants was linked to emphysema. The effects of pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, black carbon, and ground-level ozone was looked at.

Scientists also carried out a spirometry test to measure how much breath could be expelled in one exhale by the participants. The strongest association was between ozone and emphysema as ozone caused extra decrease in the functionality of the lungs.

What Did The Researchers Say?

The findings of this report are important as they shed further light on the damaging effects of air pollution on health. Senior author of report, 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.”

Barr further added that ozone levels are on the rise. This study predicted the number of deaths and hospitalizations caused by chronic respiratory diseases. He further explained that ozone is created when UV rays react with fossil fuel pollutants. Heatwaves accelerate this process which is why ozone will only increase. It can only be controlled if authorities take measures for reducing emissions from fossil fuels.

What Is Emphysema?

This report found that consistent air pollution exposure is like smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Like smoking, it can cause emphysema which is a chronic respiratory condition that causes shortness of breath. It damages the air sacks of the lungs by rupturing and weakening them overtime.

Since this research was stretched over a long period of time and had a lot of participants who had CT scans done multiple times, it applies to the general population. Pollution levels were based on the pollution present at the home addresses of participants.

Key Takeaway

A new report stresses on how air pollution can cause health to deteriorate. It says that long-term exposure to pollutants can cause emphysema just like smoking a pack of cigarettes every day can. This massive study further strengthens what previous studies have stated. Since researchers controlled factors as well, this study applies to the general masses.