Air pollution’s deadly toll

Hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved by improving the quality of air that Americans breathe, according to Mahdieh Danesh Yazdi of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Yazdi, research fellow in the Department of Environmental Health, was quoted in a June 28, 2021, article in the New York Times that detailed the health harms linked with air pollution. Yazdi was lead author of a recent study that found that even low levels of air pollution can increase the risk of serious cardiac and respiratory conditions in elderly adults.

Although emissions of key air pollutants have declined over the past several decades, the research from Yazdi and colleagues—a study that looked at 17 years’ worth of data from more than 63 million older adults— showed that the decline isn’t enough to protect the most vulnerable Americans. Even at pollution levels below current national and international guidelines, years of breathing low concentrations of fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone was linked with greater risk of heart attack, stroke, atrial fibrillation, and pneumonia in older adults, the study found.

“Both clinicians and patients can be advocates and apply pressure on public officials to control the sources of pollution and improve the air we all breathe,” Yazdi said. “Even if air pollution can’t be fully mitigated, we should strive to do better.”

Read the New York Times article: Air Pollution’s Invisible Toll on Your Health

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Even low levels of air pollution can harm hearts, lungs in elderly (Harvard Chan School news)