Tagged Air Pollution

Ask Well: Exercising on ‘Smog Alert’ Days

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Smog hangs over New York City in 1966.

Smog hangs over New York City in 1966.Credit Neal Boenzi/The New York Times

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Living Near Greenery May Help You Live Longer

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Credit Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Living near greenery may help you live longer.

Researchers monitored 108,630 women who completed biannual questionnaires on their health and lifestyle from 2000 to 2008. During that time, 8,604 died. Using satellite imagery, they tracked the extent of seasonal vegetation where the women lived. The study controlled for socioeconomic status, age, race, body mass index, physical activity, smoking, education and other health and behavioral factors.

Compared with those living in the lowest one-fifth for greenness in the 250-square-meter area surrounding their homes, those living in the highest one-fifth had a mortality rate that was 12 percent lower. The study is in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Those living near greenery had a rate of deaths from respiratory illness that was 34 percent lower and a rate of dying from cancer that was 13 percent lower. But greenness did not affect mortality related to coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke or infections.

The lead author, Peter James, a research associate at Harvard, said there were four factors in greener areas that helped account for the effects: less air pollution, more physical activity, more social engagement and, most significantly, better mental health, as measured by a lower prevalence of depression.

“This doesn’t mean you need to move to the country,” Mr. James said. “We found the associations within urban areas as well as rural areas. Any increased vegetation — more street trees, for example — seems to decrease mortality rates.”

Cleaner Air Tied to Fewer Lung Problems in Children

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Diesel exhaust from idling trucks and the large ships in the ports of Los Angeles have caused air pollution in the area.

Diesel exhaust from idling trucks and the large ships in the ports of Los Angeles have caused air pollution in the area.Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Air quality regulations in Southern California have led to large reductions in air pollution over the past two decades. A new study reports that the cleaner air has been accompanied by a significant decrease in childhood lung problems.

Researchers followed three groups of children in Southern California: fourth graders from 1993 until their high school graduation in 2001; fourth graders from 1996 to 2004; and a group of kindergartners and first graders from 2003 through 2012. A total of 4,602 children were involved.

The study, in JAMA, used data on ozone, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter for each year. Parents also provided regular updates about symptoms like coughing and phlegm production in their children.

Among children with asthma, air-pollution reduction was consistently associated with reductions in respiratory symptoms. For example, in children with asthma, reductions in fine particulate matter were associated with a 32-percent reduction in symptoms, while lower levels of ozone were linked to a 21-percent reduction.

The associations were weaker, but still significant, in children without asthma.

“Clearly, the reduction in air pollution levels have translated into improvements in respiratory health,” said the lead author, Kiros Berhane, a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California. “Especially for parents of children with asthma, this is very good news, but we see significant improvement in children without asthma as well.”

Pollution Tied to Premature Births, Especially in Women With Asthma

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Credit Stuart Bradford

A new study suggests that women with asthma exposed to air pollution, even before conception, significantly increase their risk of delivering a premature baby.

Researchers studied 223,502 pregnancies among 204,175 women in 19 hospitals across the United States, gathering data on air quality in each region.

The study, in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found that all women with asthma were more likely than those without to deliver preterm. But there were significant increases in preterm birth in asthmatic women exposed to air pollution, including traffic-related pollutants.

Air pollution also appeared to take a toll even before conception. Asthmatic women exposed to pollutants in the three months before conception were at a 28 percent higher risk for preterm birth than women without asthma exposed at the same time in the same conditions.

“That’s a window that hasn’t been studied before,” said the lead author, Pauline Mendola, an epidemiologist with the National Institutes of Health. “We saw the increase for both groups, but it was much higher for women with asthma.”

Air pollution may be unavoidable, but Dr. Mendola said that pregnant women should avoid outdoor activity when pollution levels rise.

The Environmental Protection Agency “issues air pollution advisories when conditions are bad,” she said. ”They’re not specifically for pregnant women, but pregnant women with asthma should be particularly aware of them.”

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