Friday, 17 February 2012

Moderate air pollution raises stroke risk by a third

Environmental concerns can often seem to be completely separate from issues surrounding health. But a new study has suggested that there may be some close links in place.
The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center studies more than 1,700 patients for more than a decade. The study found that even moderate levels of air pollution can increase the risk of a stroke by more than one third.

Study conducted in Boston
Stroke victims in Boston, for example, would found to be a far greater risk of an attack at times when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had issued a yellow warning on air quality levels.
The senior author of the study noted that the increased stroke risk levels associated with specific particulates “can be observed within hours of exposure.”
As a result of this study, there are suggestions that any considerations of air pollution levels simply must take into account the health risks that are associated with them.

The research team compared the stroke symptoms experienced by each patient with levels of particulates, as monitored on an hourly basis by the Harvard School of Public Health.

As a result of this research, the team have been able to calculate the patients are at the greatest level of risk is they are exposed to pollution around 14 hours prior to a stroke event.

Vehicle pollution is seen as being particularly worrying, with black carbon and nitrogen dioxide both being closely linked with stroke risk.

Stroke causes around 53,000 deaths each year in the UK, so it’s clear that this research has some significant implications.

It’s clear that air pollution warnings may need to be strengthened, in order to ensure that the public are aware of the dangers that they may be facing at certain times.

Indeed, it’s thought that cutting certain forms of air pollution by around 20% may be enough to save thousands of lives in America each year. It is admitted, however, that further research is required in order to be able to reach more definitive conclusions.

This research study was backed by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The implications for the UK
Although this study was carried out in the United States, it’s clear that it will inform policy makes here in the UK. With the environment very much on the political agenda, these sorts of links to health issues are bound to have an impact in terms of political thinking.
At present, there seems to be some concern within government that environmental issues are being seen by the public as a way to raise taxes. This link to health risks may start to change that thinking.
Keith Barrett takes an interest in environmental news and also studies the actions of politicians and other policy makers in this area. He also writes extensively on a range of green issues.

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