Hospitalizations for several common diseases—including septicemia (serious bloodstream infection), fluid and electrolyte disorders, renal failure, urinary tract infections, and skin and tissue infections—have been linked for the first time with short-term exposure to fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5), according to a comprehensive new study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
In addition, the study found that even small increases in PM2.5 exposure were linked with substantial health care and economic costs.
The study was published online Nov. 27, 2019 in BMJ.
“The study shows that the health dangers and economic impacts of air pollution are significantly larger than previously understood,” said Yaguang Wei, a doctoral candidate at Harvard Chan School and lead author of the study.
Fine particulate air pollution is composed of tiny solids and liquids floating in the air that come from sources such as motor vehicles, coal-fired power plants, and wildfires. Previous studies have shown that, when inhaled, the particles can enter deep into the lungs and cause serious health problems. “For this study, we wanted to shed further light on the risks of exposure to short-term air pollution by searching for links between such pollution and all diseases that are plausible causes of hospitalizations,” said Joel Schwartz, professor of environmental epidemiology at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study.
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