Recent findings by a group of U.S researchers show that even in one of the cleanest countries in the world, air pollution still causes health issues. Although we are already well aware of the dangers of high concentrations of airborne pollutants such as particulate matter, less is known about the health impacts of lower concentrations of these pollutants.
The team behind the research compared census records for Canadians (where the study was conducted) and compared them to local air pollution data to see if any relation was present. The findings were, perhaps unsurprisingly, that even in relatively clean air, nearly 8000 Canadians were dying every year from air pollution.
Since a singular study in one country is a small sample, the US Health Effects Institute also carried out similar studies in the US and Europe. All three studies had similar results, showing that even in countries with ‘clean’ air, air pollution is causing a range of health impacts, including mortality.
These findings are most interesting and worrying because they discovered that the ill effects of air pollution can be felt at half the concentration guidelines set by the WHO. These guidelines are already quite strict, especially compared to the AQI scales used in many countries.
This study is important because it changes how we view air pollution. On a personal level, it shows that we shouldn’t be wearing masks when the AQI reaches orange or red, but rather, consider wearing a mask even earlier. Air pollution is dangerous in any concentration.
Further, it shows that we should focus on decreasing air pollution concentrations as much as possible. We shouldn’t stop once we reach ‘safe’ levels but work to decrease air pollution further. The more we can decrease the pollution, the better.