Even minimal amounts of fine dust are dangerous

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Fine dust concentrations below the EU limit also shorten life

Fine dust is known as a risk factor for a large number of diseases and has been scientifically confirmed in the past as the cause of a reduction in average life expectancy. In the European Union (EU) there are limit values ​​for fine dust pollution in the air, beyond which the public sector is required to take countermeasures. But even below these EU limits, particulate matter has a life-shortening effect, according to the study by an international team of researchers led by Dr. Rob Beelen from the Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences at the University of Utrecht (Netherlands).

The scientists evaluated 22 existing European studies with a total of 367,251 participants and analyzed the effects of long-term exposure to fine dust pollution. They found that people who were exposed to an increased concentration of fine dust particles up to 2.5 micrometers in size had a lower life expectancy. This also applied to subjects who were only exposed to loads below the EU limit values, write Dr. Beelen and colleagues. The researchers published their results in the journal "The Lancet".

Small particulate matter particularly dangerous The study examined the effects of particulate pollution with particles up to a maximum of ten micrometers in diameter. These were further divided into particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter and the larger particles. Because the small fine dust particles pose a particularly high health risk because they penetrate deep into the lungs and can also pass into the bloodstream. The World Health Organization (WHO) takes this peculiarity into account with relatively strict limit values ​​(ten micrograms per cubic meter of air), while in the EU there are significantly higher limit values ​​of 25 micrograms per cubic meter. However, even these 25 micrograms are exceeded more frequently in the metropolitan areas.

Life expectancy shortens with increased particulate matter pollution Of the almost 368,000 participants considered, 29,076 died of a natural cause of death in the 14-year follow-up period, the researchers report. Excluding the other known, life-shortening risk factors, such as alcohol and tobacco consumption, social position, existing overweight, high blood pressure and much more, there was a clear relationship between fine dust pollution (particle size 2.5 micrometers) and the probability during the study period die, according to Dr. Beelen and colleagues continue. For every five micrograms increase in fine dust concentration per cubic meter of air, the probability of death increased by seven percent in the study period. This also applied to values ​​that were below a concentration of 25 micrograms per cubic meter of air, the scientists write.

WHO assesses air pollution as carcinogenic Ultimately, the current study confirms the critical attitude of the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding particulate matter pollution, which is also reflected in the classification of air pollution as a group 1 carcinogen that has been in force since October. Based on a draft by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the WHO came to the conclusion that the carcinogenic effects of air pollution were sufficiently proven for a corresponding classification. The IARC analysis had shown that fine dust and air pollutants cause a significantly increased risk of lung cancer. According to the WHO, 223,000 people worldwide suffer from lung cancer due to air pollution. People in China and East Asia are particularly exposed to high loads. However, the European Environment Agency was able to prove that nine out of ten city dwellers in the EU are also exposed to air pollutants in concentrations that are classified as harmful to health according to the WHO. The WHO researchers attribute the carcinogenic effects of air pollution to the various carcinogens contained, such as PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), diesel and other vehicle emissions, soot, titanium dioxide, talc or nitroarenes. (fp)

Image: gnubier / pixelio.de

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