Study Finds Air Pollution’s Damage to Lungs, Heart and Brain Underestimated

by | Jun 10, 2016

“Air pollution has emerged as a significant contributor to global stroke burden, especially in low-income and middle-income countries, and therefore reducing exposure to air pollution should be one of the main priorities to reduce stroke burden in these countries.”

That’s the summary of a newly published study in the journal Lancet Neurology. Researchers blame dirty air for nearly one-third of the global stroke burden is attributable to air pollution.

Other risk factors included: high blood pressure, low fruit intake, high body mass index (BMI), high sodium intake, smoking, low vegetable intake, household pollution, low whole grain intake, and high blood sugar.

Researchers used data collected from the Global Burden of Disease Study to estimate the disease burden of stroke associated with 17 risk factors in 188 countries.

According to their scientific analysis, the worldwide stroke burden attributable to environmental air pollution (specifically, fine particle pollution) has increased by over 33 percent from 1990 to 2013.

Stroke Statistics:

  • About 15 million people a year suffer a stroke worldwide
  • Globally, nearly 6 million die from stroke
  • About 5 million people worldwide are left with permanent disabilities (e.g., loss of sight and speech, paralysis and confusion)
  • 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Number 1 cause of serious disability in the U.S.
  • Alabama has the 2nd highest death rate from cardiovascular disease in the country, according to the American Heart Association
  • Stroke is Alabama’s 4th leading cause of death

“Although air pollution is known to damage the lungs, heart, and brain, the extent of this threat seems to have been underestimated. Air pollution is not just a problem in big cities, but is also a global problem,” the researchers said in a news release.

“With the ceaseless air streams across oceans and continents, what happens in Beijing matters in Berlin.”

About Michael Hansen
Michael is Executive Director of GASP. He joined the team in 2013 as communications specialist. He has years of experience and extensive training in the areas of public health and environmental protection. He is a member of the board of directors for the Southeast Climate & Energy Network and Clean Water Fund, as well as a member of the Arm in Arm National Core Support Team. Email Michael
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