Even low levels of air pollution can damage health, study shows

Thousands die due to air pollution in Canada, one of the cleanest countries in the world

Matt Mathers
Saturday 13 August 2022 06:04 BST
Warnings over air pollution

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Even small amounts of pollution - below some countries’ minimum air quality standards - can increase the risk of death, a new study reveals.

Researchers compared census records for more than 7 million people in Canada - one of the cleanest countries in the world - against air pollution data between 1981 and 2016.

They found that, despite Canada's relatively clean air, some 7,848 citizens died each year as a result of pollution.

Canadians living in the cleanest parts of the country experienced a negative impact on their health, the study said.

Professor Michael Brauer from the University of British Columbia, who led the Canadian study, said: “These findings suggest important health benefits could be gained from continued reductions in air pollution and more stringent regulatory standards, including in countries such as Canada and the UK.

“Considering that we don’t identify a ‘safe’ level of air pollution, we should rethink our approach and focus on continued reductions year by year, rather than just setting fixed concentration standards that are only reviewed every five to 10 years.

"The health impacts are far too large.”

The Canadian study was one of three funded by the US Health Effects Institute. The other two looked at 60 million people in the US and 27 million in Europe and came to a similar conclusion.

Experts say the findings mean governments should not limit their ambitions around setting targets for reducing pollution.

Last month a review by the UK Health Security Agency found that air pollution is “likely” to increase the risk of developing dementia.

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