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Short-term exposure to air pollution may shorten your life

Public health research indicates that any level of air pollution can be harmful to health, even for people in rural areas.

Created date

March 22nd, 2018

Results from a new study by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health indicate that older adults who are exposed to air pollution may have a higher risk of death than people who breathe cleaner air.

Those findings do not seem especially surprising, but what is notable is that the scientists found that short-term exposure to so-called safe levels of pollution may cause significant harm.

The researchers analyzed data from the entire Medicare population living in 39,182 U.S. zip codes from 2000 to 2012. They focused on ozone and fine particulate air pollution levels considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency. The study’s results showed that death rates increased almost linearly with the level of air pollution.

Although the increase in mortality rates was small, it was considered significant because the health effects of air pollution is an important public health issue. The lead author says the study shows that any level of air pollution can be harmful to human health, even for people who live in rural areas.