Study shows poor air quality leads to health problems and ‘should serve as a warning’
The report proves an “absolutely clear” link between poor air quality and health problems and researchers said it should serve as a warning to politicians about the serious impacts of toxic air on public health.
“The patients we looked at, who all suffer from lung conditions, are to my mind the canary in the coalmine on this issue,” said one of the report’s authors, Prof James Chalmers, from the respiratory research in the school of medicine at Dundee. “They are the first and most seriously affected by air pollution but it can affect us all.”
The findings come amid growing concern about the illegal levels of air pollution in the UK and the impact on people’s health – particularly children.
Last week a medical expert said the hospital admissions of a girl who died in an asthma attack at the age of nine showed a “striking association” with spikes in illegal levels of air pollution around her home in London.
The family of Ella Kissi-Debrah are now calling for a new inquest into her death following fresh evidence that air pollution was a contributory factor.
Today’s report is one of the most comprehensive carried out in the UK and studied nearly 15 years of data for air pollution levels in Dundee, Perth and the surrounding area.
Those figures were matched to medical records of 450 patients who suffer from bronchiectasis, a long-term chronic condition similar to COPD which can cause a persistent cough and breathlessness as well as frequent chest infections.
Chalmers said the results were stark.
“When we looked at these two sets of data side-by-side the links between the periods when air pollution is at its worst and when these patients are having to seek assistance is absolutely clear.
“We found that on days when air pollution spiked there was a large increase in admissions to Ninewells hospital and Perth Royal Infirmary with breathing problems and visits to GPs with breathing problems, known as exacerbations.”