Air pollution accelerates lung disease as much as smoking

August 29, 2019

Researchers have discovered that air pollution can accelerate emphysema of the lung as rapidly as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, according to a new study.

Emphysema, which involves symptoms like coughing andbreathing trouble, was shown to increase in areas with significant air pollution. Although previous studies have found connections between air pollutants and lung disease, this new research illuminates the severity of these impacts.

The study, which was led by the University of Washington, Columbia University and the University at Buffalo, found that the pollution was most dangerous when it was ozone pollution, which worsens with climate change.

The researchers discovered that if an individual lived in a major U.S. city for 10 years where the ozone level was 3 parts per billion higher than at another location, the increase in emphysema was equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes each day for 29 years.

“We were surprised to see how strong air pollution’s impact was on the progression of emphysema on lung scans, in the same league as the effects of cigarette smoking, which is by far the best-known cause of emphysema,” said Joel Kaufman, a professor at the University of Washington and the study’s senior co-author.

The ozone levels in some major U.S. cities are increasing by enough to create these complications, the Environmental News Network reports.

Air pollution accelerates lung disease as much as smoking