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Regular exposure to Ozone Pollution might increase the risk of death

According to a study published by The BMJ, regular exposure to Ozone pollution might increase the risk of death, effectively reducing the life expectancy.

Based on the information from 20 countries and 400 cities across the globe, the findings prove that over 6000 deaths per annum could have been avoided in certain cities and areas if the government had implemented ‘stricter air quality standards’.

Ground level ozone is a colorless and highly irritating gas that forms just above the earth’s surface. It is known as a secondary pollutant as it’s produced when two primary pollutants, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds react in sunlight and stagnant air.

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Recent research studies have shown that more than 80% of the population, residing in urban areas, are in contact with pollution levels significantly higher than those set by the World Health Organization. “Current air quality thresholds (in micrograms per cubic meter of ambient air) range from 100 μg/ m3  (WHO), 120 μg/m3  (European Union directive), 140 μg/ m3  (US National Ambient Air Quality Standard), and 160 μg/ m3  (Chinese Ambient Air Quality Standard).”

Many research studies have shown a direct relation between ground level ozone and the mortality rate. Recently, a team studied data from 1985 to 2015, analyzing “deaths and environmental measures (weather and air pollutants) in 406 cities in 20 countries”, which supported the initial hypothesis.

The data, which was acquired from the Multi-City Multi-Country Collaborative Research Network, was used to find the average ozone levels, temperature, particulate matter and relative humidity. This, in turn, helped with determining the deaths caused in those particular areas due to ozone pollution.

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The research analyzed 45,165,171 deaths that showed that a 10 μg/ m3 increase in the ozone levels increased the probability of death by 0.18%. Overall, this adds up to around 6262 extra deaths annually.

According to the British Medical Journal, “what’s more, smaller but still substantial mortality impacts were found even for ozone concentrations below WHO guideline levels, supporting the WHO initiative of encouraging countries to revisit current air quality guidelines and enforcing stronger emission restrictions to meet these recommendations, say the researchers.”

However, since it was an observational study, a definitive cause cannot be stated yet. As, areas like South America, Africa and Middle East were not assessed, the study might be biased and lead to a significant advantage to one side.

The researchers concluded that “their results suggest that ozone related mortality could be potentially reduced under stricter air quality standards”.

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They further shared, “interventions to further reduce ozone pollution would provide additional health benefits, even in regions that meet current regulatory standards and guidelines”. “These findings have important implications for the design of future public health actions; particularly, for example, in relation to the implementation of mitigation strategies to reduce the impacts of climate change”

About The BMJ

The BMJ is a weekly peer-reviewed medical journal. It is one of the world’s oldest general medical journals. Originally called the British Medical Journal, the title was officially shortened to BMJ in 1988, and then changed to The BMJ in 2014. The journal is published by the global knowledge provider BMJ, a wholly owned subsidiary of the British Medical Association.


Mariyam Tanveer

Recently graduated from LUMS, I now work as Researcher and a Freelance Writer on Ask Health News

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