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Major Shock: Long-Term Pollution Exposure Linked to Heart and Lung Disease

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By now, you shouldn't be surprised when air pollution is linked to hospitalizations, but what about long-term disease? A a new study in PLoS is among the first pieces of research that looks at how pollution can damage your health in the long term. Most research, until recently, only looked at short-term risks from heavy exposure.

Top image: United Nations Photo/Flickr.

The research was specifically on the levels of PM2.5 — particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less — which was tracked all across New England, and then compared to hospital admissions of all Medicare patients 65 and older from 2000-2006. While seven years may not seem particularly long term, it's significantly more than previous studies have observed.


What the researchers found was a steady cumulative uptick in a number of diseases as pollution increased. For every 10-µg/m3 increase in long-term PM2.5 exposure, thy found a 4.22% increase in respiratory admissions, 3.12% increase in cardiovascular disease, 3.49% increase in strokes, and 6.33% increase in diabetes.

If you're not already paranoid about what that means for you, keep an eye on the PM2.5 levels in your city, and remember that this pollution has been linked to cognitive decline, too.