Exposure to toxic air pollutants is linked to increased deaths due to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, warn researchers.
Conducted over a 30-year period, the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, analysed data on air pollution and mortality in 652 cities across 24 countries and regions.
The researchers found that increases in total deaths are linked to exposure to inhalable particles (PM10) and fine particles (PM2.5) emitted from fires or formed through atmospheric chemical transformation.
“As there’s no threshold for the association between particulate matter (PM) and mortality, even low levels of air pollution can increase the risk of death,” said Yuming Guo, Professor at Monash University in Australia.
“The smaller the airborne particles, the more easily they can penetrate deep into the lungs and absorb more toxic components causing death,” Guo said.
Though concentrations of air pollution in Australia are lower than in other countries, the study found that Australians are more sensitive to particulate matter air pollution and cannot effectively resist its adverse impacts.
“Given the extensive evidence on their health impacts, PM10 and PM2.5 are regulated through the World Health Organisation (WHO) Air Quality Guidelines and standards in major countries,” Guo added.
The results suggest that the levels of particulate matter below the current air quality guidelines and standards are still hazardous to public health.