Long-held assumptions that all particulate matter pollution is equally damaging to health have been disproved by a new insightful study. New research proves that coal burning pollution affects heart health more than any other.
In a tight race to decarbonize our future and reorient energy towards renewable sources, world leaders base their efforts and negotiation capabilities on scientific studies, including those in the medical field. Until recently, all pollution and particulate matter related studies have held the assumption that all particulate matter is equally damaging to health. Even under this framework, the World Health Organization released worrying reports that in 2012, air pollution caused 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide.
The new study, conducted by researchers with the New York University Langone Medical Center is the first to break down particulate matter by size and source and look at the effects on health. The data used in the study spans 100 U.S. cities, medical data of over 40,000 people and a timeframe from 1982 to 2004.
Previous research has already established that particulate matter under PM2.5 is far more dangerous to health than PM10. Particulate matter contains chemical substances such as selenium, mercury or arsenic, which, once in the bloodstream, have the potential to severely affect health. Even more so when we are dealing with particulate matter PM2.5. The small diameter size allows these molecules to navigate with ease and cause: premature death, severe asthma, nonfatal heart attacks, respiratory problems, irregular heartbeat or impact lung function.
At the same time it is the PM2.5 particles which trigger cardiovascular disease after just a short time of exposure. The new study broke down particulate matter according to source, including particulate matter stemming from wood burning, traffic fumes and coal burning.
Overall, the researchers found that coal burning pollution affects heart health more than any other. Doctor George Thurston, also professor of Population Health and Environmental Medicine with the New York University Langone Medical Center declared that the source of the particulate matter is crucial for understanding the health-related problems and planning ahead if we are to curb the incidence of pollution-related premature deaths.
Particulate matter resulting from coal burning bears arsenic and selenium. Analyzed thoroughly, particulate matter PM2.5 resulting from coal burning and taken pound for pound was found to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and ischemic heart disease. In addition, mortality linked to these two heart conditions increased five times.
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