HEALTH

What diseases are directly caused by smog? A study explains

In recent years, science has made great strides in understanding how pollution in our cities is linked to our health problems. The air we breathe often contains toxins or pollutants that cause illnesses, often serious ones.

The WHO estimates that at least 7 million premature deaths are caused primarily by air pollution, especially in urban agglomerations. Specifically, researchers point the finger mainly at PM 2.5 fine particles, microscopic particles present in the air and highly harmful.

So what are the most common pathologies caused directly by smog? Tumours and cancer are at the top, but they are not the only ones, unfortunately.

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Smog and disease: studies explain which diseases are related
In recent years, science has made great strides in understanding how pollution in our cities is linked to our health problems. The air we breathe often contains toxins or pollutants that cause illnesses, often serious ones. The WHO estimates that at least 7 million premature deaths are caused primarily by air pollution, especially in urban agglomerations. Specifically, researchers point the finger mainly at PM 2.5 fine particles, microscopic particles present in the air and highly harmful. So what are the most common pathologies caused directly by smog? Tumours and cancer are at the top, but they are not the only ones, unfortunately.
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Cardiovascular disease
A 2020 study, entitled 'Oxidative stress in air pollution research', calculated that about half of all deaths that can be related to exposure to high levels of PM 2.5, the so-called fine particulate matter, are deaths from cardiovascular diseases. Prolonged exposure to this type of pollution, in fact, greatly increases the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes.
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Cancer and tumor
Pollution problems do not only cause cases of lung cancer, as one is often led to believe. In fact, in a research study entitled 'Cancer Mortality Risks from Long-term Exposure to Ambient Fine Particles', it is well explained how very common, caused by smog, are also breast, throat, stomach and liver cancers. Furthermore, a study conducted by the National Cancer Institute in Milan related the incidence of fine particles on women already suffering from breast cancer, and identified an increased risk of death between 72% and 82% in patients exposed to large concentrations of PM 2.5.
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Mental health
A joint study between Oxford and Beijing Universities in 2023 showed how prolonged exposure to smog, including PM 2.5 and nitrogen dioxide, can increase the risk of developing depression and anxiety. As if this were not enough, close links have also been demonstrated between prolonged exposure to smog and the onset of dementia.
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Respiratory diseases
Without a doubt, the respiratory system is one of the most affected by the high levels of smog in the air. In fact, it can range from not-so-serious problems such as coughing and shortness of breath, to truly terrible diseases such as lung cancer and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). A study by the University of Massachusetts, showed an increase in hospital admissions for COPD in areas with low air quality and high smog levels.
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19/04/2024
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