Jordi Sunyer, researcher and co-director of the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), gave the lecture "Health effects of air pollution" at the Faculty of Medicine in the University of Barcelona (UB), last June 5th.
Air pollution is the first preventable environmental risk factor in the world and in Europe. Its health impact is mainly due to its effect on aging via oxidative stress and low-grade systemic inflammation. The short term and long term effects of air pollution on respiratory, cardio-vascular and neurological effects are going to be reviewed as well as the health benefits following air pollution interventions.
"In our atmosphere we have solid particles, as mineral materials, marine aerosols and carbon compounds, among others. And the main air pollutants are NOx, SOx, O3, CO, NH3 and COVs", introduced Sunyer.
The PM have big impact in our health. The particle less than 30 microm have impact in our nose and throat. The particle less than 10 microm, like SO2, NO2 and ozone, have impact in our trachea, bronchi and bronchiole. The particles promote early atherosclerosis and systemic oxidation, as it has been shown in a study published in JAMA in 2005, by Dr. Valentín Fuster, from the Mount Sinai Hospital, in New York.
There is a significant relationship among the atmospheric pollution and the daily mortality, as we have seen in the European APHEA study. There is an increase of the pollution during the months of winter in Barcelona.
"We are continuing the research in the Mediterranean area, with the MED-particle European project. There is a clear relationship between air pollution and mortality in Barcelona. The main pollutant is the traffic", said Sunyer.
Are there chronic effects beyond the short-term effects?
"It is very different to live in the Raval, Eixemple, Sant Cugat or Sitges. For example, in Southern California, when you live nearer to the busy roads, children have more asthma risk ", explained the CREAL researcher.
"We have developed different studies relating asthma and pollutant. And we have made studies about air pollution during the pregnancy related with the mental development of the newborn", specified Sunyer.
"Something that is frightening is the air pollution by PM2,5 in long term and the mortality", said the lecturer. The long-term exposure of air pollution increases the incidence of the cardiovascular events in women, due to the acceleration of the atherosclerosis by the air pollution.
"We are conducting now a study named BREATHE, with 40 schools, working memory with children and related with the air quality in their environment. Urban pollution, and specifically fine and ultrafine particles area an important health hazard, and it is a global health threat", concluded Sunyer.