Even low levels of air pollution can harm hearts, lungs in elderly

Long-term exposure to low levels of air pollution—even levels below national standards—can increase the risk of several serious cardiac and respiratory conditions in elderly adults, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 63 million Medicare patients from 2000 to 2016 and looked for associations between three different types of pollutants— fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide, and ozone—and harmful health effects. They found that long-term exposure to low pollution levels was linked with increased risk for pneumonia, heart attack, stroke, and atrial fibrillation.

“People should be conscious of the air quality in the region where they live to avoid harmful exposure over long periods of time, if possible,” said lead author Mahdieh Danesh Yazdi, research fellow in environmental health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in a February 22, 2021, article in HealthDay.

Noting that more than half of the study population is exposed to low levels of air pollution, Yazdi recommended that policymakers reconsider current standards.

Other Harvard Chan School co-authors of the study included Yan Wang, Qian Di, Yuguang Wei, Weeberb Requia, Liuhua Shi, Matthew Sabath, Francesca Dominici, Brent Coull, John Evans, Petros Koutrakis, and Joel Schwartz.

Read the HealthDay article: Even Low Levels of Air Pollution Harm Heart, Lungs