Can minimum levels of air pollution also impact health?
A recent study conducted by US researchers in Canada, one of the cleanest countries in the world, has revealed minute details around impact on health of even minimum levels of air pollution. Huge amount of data starting from the infamous 1952 smog in London has evidently pointed that breathing high concentrations of air pollution impacts our health negatively. But the new study has given a new perspective to look at the health harmed from air pollution.
As part of the study, census records of over 7 million people in Canada during 1981 to 2016 period were combined with data of air pollution to determine whether small amounts of particle pollution in air still had a harmful impact on human health. Even though Canada records a relatively clean air, the study by US researchers found that about 8,000 Canadians are dying each year due to outdoor air pollution. Furthermore, it was also noted in the study that people living in the cleanest parts of Canada too were experiencing a negative impact on health.
The Canadian study was one of three researches funded by the US Health Effects Institute. The other two studies involved assessing the similar impact of air pollution on over 60 million people in the United States and 27 million people across Europe. The conclusions reached for these researches were similar – “there is no lower limit that can be used to define safe air quality”. The inference through this is that the “governments should not constrain their ambition around setting targets for the worst air that people should breathe”.
Prof Michael Brauer from the University of British Columbia, who led the Canadian study, said, “Considering that we don’t identify a ‘safe’ level of air pollution, we should rethink our approach and focus on continued reductions year by year, rather than just setting fixed concentration standards that are only reviewed every five to 10 years. The health impacts are far too large.”