The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the University of Nevada and Emory University are studying the effects of increased air pollution on the number of emergency room visits by patients of all ages for respiratory problems such as asthma, chronic bronchopneumonia (COPD) and respiratory infection.
The researchers studied the presence of two pollutants in 869 countries one week before the emergency room visit for a respiratory problem. The study, on an unprecedented scale, covers 40 million consultations and 45% of the American population. Patients were divided into three groups: under 19 years of age, under 65 years of age and over 65 years of age.
Findings presented in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicin indicate a correlation between ozone levels and emergency room visits for asthma, acute respiratory infections, PCBs and pneumonia in all age groups. The most pronounced association is found among those over 65 years of age.
Rising ozone levels increase emergency room visits
The researchers also established a relationship between PM 2.5 – which are particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter – that penetrate deep into the respiratory system, and visits to respiratory emergencies in children and adults under 65 years of age. The strongest correlation is found in children. Again, the increase in PM 2.5 is related to an increase in the percentage of emergency room visits among children, such as those under 65.
Previous studies of emergency room visits have shown that children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution, but these studies were limited to a specific city,” said Heather M. Strosnider, lead author of the study. These conclusions are in line with those of the Environmental Protection Agency. Ozone, the main component of smog, and PM 2.5 are the two most important forms of air pollution in the United States.