A study in one of the world’s cleanest countries can help governments think about future ways to manage air pollution.
Multiple data from The infamous London smog of 1952 further tells us that breathing high concentrations of air pollution harms our health. This feeds into the 20th century idea of targets for our air quality. However, the new study looked at the health damage from air pollution from a different angle.
Census data on more than 7 million Canadians from 1981 to 2016 was combined with air pollution data to find out whether small amounts of particulate pollution were still harmful.
Despite the relatively clean air, the study found that nearly 8,000 Canadians were dying prematurely each year from outdoor air pollution. Notably, even people in the cleanest areas were experiencing an impact on their health.
The Canadian study was one of three funded by American Institute of Health Effects. The other two watched more than 60 million people in the US AND 27 million people in Europe. They reached similar conclusions: there is no lower limit that can be used to define safe air quality. This means that governments should not limit their ambitions around setting targets for the worst air people have to breathe.
Professor Michael Brewer from the University of British Columbia, who led the Canadian study, said: “These findings suggest that significant health benefits can be gained from continued reductions in air pollution and stricter regulatory standards, including in countries such as Canada and UK.
“Given that we do not identify a ‘safe’ level of air pollution, we need to rethink our approach and focus on continuous reductions year after year, rather than setting fixed concentration standards that are reviewed only every five to in 10 years. The health impacts are huge.”
Last month, a The UK Review warned than air pollution contributes to dementia and a US Review highlighted how asthma can be triggered by exposure to air pollution from traffic. Although uk and European countries are committed to reducing average particulate pollution and the total pollution produced by each countrygrowing evidence underlines the need for action to improve air pollution everywhere and especially for young and vulnerable people.