A new study reveals that air pollution, even if it is not high, can alter lung function, causing damages similar to that caused by smoking.
Today, the lives of city dwellers are punctuated by episodes of air pollution. However, it is not only the fine particle pollution peaks that can be dangerous for the lungs.
A study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, shows that even moderate air pollution can cause lung disease. The researchers studied the health status of 303,887 British men and women. They compared these results to the rate of fine particles (PM2.5) present in the immediate area where each person lived.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, an independent US agency, the maximum rate of fine particles is 12 micrograms per cubic meter. The agency believes that beyond that level, the health of asthmatic people, children and the elderly is at great risk.
The researchers found that for every five micrograms increase per cubic meter of fine particles, diagnoses of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, an irreversible condition, increased by 52%.
In addition, for each increase of five micrograms per cubic meter of fine particles, the researchers also found that the decrease in lung function was similar to that caused by smoking. In fact, it was equivalent to 29% of that caused by cigarette consumption, and 65% of that of a former smoker.
Finally, atmospheric pollution — even moderate — causes damage four times higher than that of passive smoking.
“We have seen a significant reduction in lung function, even at relatively low levels of PM2.5,” concluded Dany Doiron, a researcher at the McGill University Health Center in Canada.