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08-01-2013 | General practice | Article

Reducing air pollution from wood stoves may increase life expectancy

Abstract

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medwireNews: Reducing a person's exposure to wood or biomass smoke can help increase their life expectancy, suggest findings from a study published in the BMJ.

Researchers led by Fay Johnston, from the University of Tasmania in Australia, found a significant correlation between reductions in ambient particulate matter with a diameter of 10 mm or smaller (PM10) and increases in male life expectancy.

Johnston and colleagues assessed the impact of a community education program, environmental regulation enforcement, and a program of wood heater replacement in the Launceston area of Tasmania, all of which were instituted in 2001. Mortality and ambient air pollution were assessed during 6.5 year periods before and after 2001.

Similar air quality and mortality measures were recorded in central Hobart, a comparable Australian city in which no air regulations or education programs were on offer during the same time period, for control purposes.

The mean daily PM10 concentration in the winter in the Launceston area fell significantly after 2001 from an average of 44 µg/m3 during the 1994-2000 period to 27 µg/m3 in 2001-2007.

Over the 2001-2007 period there were significant reductions in all-cause, cardiovascular, and respiratory mortality in men of 11.4%, 17.9%, and 22.8%, respectively, but not women.

In men and women combined, there were borderline significant reductions in annual winter cardiovascular and respiratory mortality of 19.6% and 27.9%, respectively, over the same period. However, no significant reductions in winter all-cause mortality, or all season all-cause, cardiovascular, and respiratory mortality rates were observed.

medwireNews (www.medwirenews.com) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2013

The team notes that no reductions in mortality were seen in the control city of Hobart during 2001-2007, suggesting that the Launceston air regulations may have directly influenced mortality rates.

"Our findings highlight the potential for important public health gains from interventions to reduce ambient pollution from biomass smoke," conclude the authors.

By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter

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