New Study: Current Particle Pollution Standards are Killing Us
For years, scientists and medical professionals have cautioned that the US standard for fine particle pollution is set too high to effectively protect human health. In the winter, wood burning is one of the leading contributors to particulate pollution.
A large European study recently published in the Lancet gives new credence to these claims. Notably, the European Union fine particle limit of 25 µg/m3 is already considerably more protective than the US standard of 35 µg/m3.
What this study shows is that even the lower EU standard is not low enough to adequately protect human health.
The study’s lead author Rob Beelen notes, “Our findings suggest that significant adverse health effects occur … well below the EU annual average air-quality limit value of 25 µg/m3.” Results from the study showed that the risk of natural death increases by 7% with each 5 µg/m3 rise in PM2.5 concentrations.
This large study looked at data from 22 European cohort studies conducted in 13 European countries to investigate the link between natural-cause mortality and long-term exposure to air pollution. Almost 370,000 participants were monitored for an average of 14 years. Note that the analyses controlled for socioeconomic, health, and lifestyle factors such as income and smoking, which are known to influence mortality.
According to Beelen, “The World Health Organization air-quality guideline is 10 µg/m3, and our findings support the idea that significant health benefits can be achieved by moving towards this target.”
This study brings new urgency to the need to lower the fine particle pollution standard in the US. Also, given the fact that in many communities wood burning is the largest source of wintertime fine particle pollution, the study makes it clear why it is so important to eliminate wood burning pollution.