Thursday, March 12, 2009

Premature Death Linked to Smog Exposure in Medical Study

A study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine found that long-term exposure to concentrated smog significantly raises the risk of dying from lung disease. The study found that the risk of dying from a respiratory disease is 3 times higher in metropolitan areas with the most concentrated ozone -- a precursor of smog -- than in those with the lowest ozone concentrations.

According to a statement from New York University's Langone Medical Center, this is the first nationwide study to evaluate the long-term effects of ozone exposure on human health. It is also the first to separate the the effects of ozone pollution from those of fine particle pollution (soot).

Co-author of the study, George Thurston:
"Many studies have shown that a high ozone day leads to an increase in risk of acute health effects the next day, for example, asthma attacks and heart attacks."

Thurston also said that the EPA's current standards for airborne ozone do not protect against the long-term effects of ozone exposure:

"It seems clear that even in cities that are approaching meeting the existing standard, you still have a substantial risk from the cumulative long-term exposure that's not addressed by the acute standard."

The Obama administration called for the stalling of a pending court case over the EPA's current smog standards to give the agency more time to decide on revising the controversial Bush-era air quality standards.

President of advocacy group Clean Air Watch Frank O'Donnell agrees that standards need to be stricter:

"There's certainly a great weight of evidence to document that tougher ozone standards are needed."