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Study Questions Safe Levels for Fine Particulates

December 9, 2013
Environmental Protection

A new study by scientists based at Utrecht University has found that exposure to particulate levels below the current European standard of 25 ?g/m3 still poses a significant risk to health. By examining data from 367,251 city residents, in 13 European countries, over a 20 year period, figures showed that risk of death by natural causes was increased by seven percent for every five micrograms per cubic meter rise in exposure to fine particulates. Lead researcher, Dr Rob Beelen, said that the study showed location was a vital part of the picture. ?A difference of 5 micrograms can be found between a location at a busy urban road and at a location not influenced by traffic. Our findings support health impact assessments of fine particles in Europe which were previously based almost entirely on North American studies.?

The link between exposure to fine particles and premature death was found to still be significant after taking into account other factors such as socio economic status, activity levels, smoking and obesity. Earlier this year researchers proved a link between air pollution and low birth weight babies. Professor Frank Kelly of the Environmental Research Group at London?s Kings College says that policy measures are needed in light of the weight of evidence. “Action is particularly urgent in cities where concentrations of pollutants routinely breach current EU limit values, let alone the more stringent and health-based WHO guidelines.?

The abstract to the report can be viewed at: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(13)62158-3/abstract



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