Study Shows Burning Fossil Fuels Is Killing Us — Are You OK with That?
Researchers at the University of Washington, Columbia University, and the University of Buffalo recently completed a study designed to determine the long term effects on human health of four atmospheric pollutants that result from burning fossil fuels — fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, black carbon, and ozone. The results of their study have now been published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The study spanned 18 years and involved more than 7,000 people. It included a detailed examination of the air pollution encountered between 2000 and 2018 in six metropolitan regions across the U.S. — Chicago, Winston-Salem, N.C., Baltimore, Los Angeles, St. Paul, Minnesota, and New York. The participants were drawn from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) Air and Lung studies, according to a University of Washington blog post.
“To our knowledge, this is the first longitudinal study to assess the association between long-term exposure to air pollutants and progression of percent emphysema in a large, community-based, multi-ethnic cohort,” said first author Meng Wang, an assistant professor of epidemiology and environmental health at the University at Buffalo who conducted the research as a postdoctoral researcher at UW.
“This is a big study with state-of-the-art analysis of more than 15,000 CT scans repeated on thousands of people over as long as 18 years. These findings matter since ground-level ozone levels are rising, and the amount of emphysema on CT scans predicts hospitalization from and deaths due to chronic lung disease,” said Dr. R. Graham Barr, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University who led the MESA Lung study and is a senior author of the paper.
“As temperatures rise with climate change,” Barr explained, “ground-level ozone will continue to increase unless steps are taken to reduce this pollutant. But it’s not clear what level of the air pollutants, if any, is safe for human health.”
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