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Eastern China Has Poorest Air Quality in the World
Tiffany Kaiser – September 28, 2010 2:03 PM
Map of global air-particulate pollution (Source: Aaron van Donkelaar, Dalhousie University)
Industrial sector of this region has the highest concentration of particulates
Canadian scientists have developed a map of global air-particulate pollution using National Aeronautics and Space Administration satellite data, and it shows that China’s air quality is very poor compared to the rest of the world.
Aaron van Donkelaar and Randall Martin from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada created the map using satellite data because they believed ground-based detection would be “spotty” in areas or nonexistent. The data used for the map is from 2001 to 2006.
The map of global air-particulate pollution shows fine particulate matter density worldwide through color-coding, where white and dark blue areas have the lowest concentration of particulates and dark red areas have the highest concentration of particulates. The reddest part of the entire map is Eastern China’s industrial area.
Despite the fact that the data used for the map is from 2001 to 2006, The Wall Street Journal noted in July that China’s air quality is getting worse, and has not improved since the time period of this data.
In fact, more recent studies, such as the research conducted by a team of scientists who studied air pollution along the Yangtze River Delta in China, proves that China’s air quality is only getting worse. This particular study concluded that the Yangtze River Delta is one of the most densely populated areas in the world and the “fastest growing economic development region in China.” The area has seen drastic increases in atmospheric emissions and energy consumption, which led the team of researchers to use the Community Multiscale Air Quality model along with an emission inventory to measure baseline concentrations in order to calculate health risks and construct control strategies.
Many health issues arise from poor air quality because fine particulates are capable of passing the body’s cilia defenses and penetrating the lungs and blood. Bronchitis, cardiovascular disease and asthma are a few of the illnesses that can come from poor air quality. Through both of these studies, researchers can better understand what China is up against and can develop ways to counter it, saving hundreds of millions of people who live in this area from chronic disease.
This study was published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
Blood Vessels in Eye Reveal Connection Between Heart Disease and Air Pollution
Tiffany Kaiser – December 1, 2010 11:18 AM
Researchers from the University of Washington – Seattle and the University of Michigan have found that a closer look at blood vessels in the eye shows a connection between heart disease and air pollution.
Dr. Joel Kaufman, study leader and professor of medicine and occupational and environmental health sciences at the University of Washington, along with Sara Adar, co-author of the study and research assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of public Health, have used digital photography to observe blood vessels in the eye and found a link between air pollution and heart disease in the process.
Up until this point, previous studies have indicated that heart disease may be linked to pollution, but the study conducted by Kaufman and Adar is the first to observe the connection between pollution and tiny blood vessels, called the microvasculature.
Kaufman and Adar found this link by digitally photographing the tiny blood vessels
located in the back of our eyes. These vessels are very similar to those found in the heart, but it is much easier to photograph those that are in the eye because they can be measured without the use of anesthesia or probes.
Researchers used 4,607 participants who had no history of heart disease
and were between the ages of 45 and 84. They snapped digital photos of the retina and calculated the fine particulate matter in the air of each participant’s home. They performed this procedure over a two year span before the eye exam, and also measured short-term exposure by checking pollution levels the day before the eye exam.
Kaufman and Adar concluded that healthy people exposed to increased levels of air pollution had “narrower retinal arterioles.” The pollution levels throughout the study were, for the most part, below the EPA’s acceptable level
, but the tiny blood vessels still narrowed by 1/100th of a human hair. This may not seem like much, but researchers warn that this is enough to indicate a higher risk of heart disease. If all microvasculature in the body were affected the same way, it could lead to severe health consequences like a stroke or heart attack.
When comparing short-term with long-term exposure, the study shows that participants with short-term exposure to pollution had the microvascular blood vessels of a person that is three years older while long-term exposure left participants with microvascular blood vessels of a person seven years older. According to Adar, this type of change would mean a three percent increase of heart disease risk for women who live in polluted areas as opposed to cleaner ones. Adar did not note what the percentage of increased risk for men would be.
“The fact that this study identified a relationship between microvascular width and air pollution
exposures provides a strong potential link between the epidemiological observations of more cardiovascular events like fatal heart attacks with higher pollution exposures and a verifiable biological mechanism,” said Kaufman.
Kaufman and Adar are continuing to study the effects over time in this same group of participants. They are looking to see if air pollution causes changes in vessel diameters over time in order to provide more evidence that air pollution causes the narrowing of the tiny blood vessels, thus proving that it is linked to heart disease.
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Note the following:
while long-term exposure left participants with microvascular blood vessels of a person seven years older
That chimes rather well with a Dutch study showing people living next to busy streets have a life expectancy seven years lower than other people.