STATES CHRONICLE – A new study on people who benefit from Medicare discovered their health was significantly endangered by air pollution. Certain pollutants might lead to different health conditions and increase the death risk, even if their concentration in the air is deemed safe.
Low-income people and racial minorities suffer more from air pollution
Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health analyzed the mortality rates between 2000 and 2012 among people who benefit from Medicare, namely around 60 million Americans around the age of 65 or older. Then, they looked if these rates were related to the concentration of ozone pollutants and fine particulate matter in the air.
Results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and show air pollution and mortality are indeed related. Also, researchers hope to use these results to convince the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to change their National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), since they regard certain levels of pollutants in the air as acceptable.
Researchers think the lowering of NAAQS might be beneficial for the entire population. However, those who may benefit from it the most are low-income people or ethnic minorities, who were found as the most affected by air pollution.
EPA needs to lower the acceptable limits of pollutants
NAAQS requires that a cubic meter of air should have less than 12 micrograms of fine particulate matter, while ozone must be less than 50 parts per billion. However, researchers discovered that even smaller concentrations of these pollutants are enough to be dangerous for health, so it is important that EPA should change their regulations.
When the study was conducted, the PM and ozone concentrations were a little higher as, in certain years, they reached 15.64 micrograms and 55.86 parts respectively. Also, each increase of 10 micrograms corresponded to an increase of mortality by 7.3 percent, while 10 more parts of ozone increased mortality by 1.1 percent.
This highlights the need to stop air pollution, and one small effort in this sense would be the change of the environmental guidelines. Medicare patients are especially affected by this phenomenon, but the entire populations might suffer from it.
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