Air pollution causes deep vein thrombosis and other problems

Particulate air pollution seems to be even worse for you than we previously thought. I have already written in these posts about the problems that biomass pollution can cause and I have also written about the link between increased carbon dioxide levels and poor health and cancers.

Now I have to add to this somewhat miserable and depressing list by warning that researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health led by Dr Andrea Baccarelli have found evidence that deep vein thrombosis is linked to air pollution – yes air pollution, not just air travel. In simple terms it seems that the pollution makes blood more “sticky” and more likely to clot, creating thromboses.

The findings include that for every 10 microgrammes per cubic metre increase in small particulates above 12 microgrammes per cubic metre of particulates in the air, the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis increases by 70%. !2 microgrammes just hapens to be the smallest amoun measured in the research. Most public health laws and policies allow 150 microgrammes.

The Harvard School of Public Health is well known for its work in the field of particulate pollution. The School has developed an ambient concentrator so that it can create precise concentrations of pollutants for inhalation and then study the effects.

Eight years ago the School studied air pollution from two older Massachusetts coal burning electricity generating plants. They estimated that these two plants created particulate emissions that could be linked to 43,000 asthma attacks, 300,000 incidents of upper respiratory symptoms and 159 premature deaths. It may sound obvious but the closer you live to the pollution, the greater the impact on your health.

The work that led to the findings about increased risks of DVT is a preliminary study based on 2000 people in Italy over a ten year period from 1995. It is not conclusive but it provides a very good indicator of the unseen risks of burning huge amounts of fossil fuel for transportation.

We have to take great care with our air quality. We are careless in burning fossil fuel. In transportation; we have known that lead in petroleum is harmful to the brains of young children but petroleum only became widely lead-free in the United Kingdom in 1990 – less than twenty years ago.

Until recently we were careless about burning tobacco in public places even though we well knew the risks of cancer associated with smoking for around fifty years. As society we were content to place those risks on non smokers and smokers alike.

We are equally careless about particulate pollution from all fuels. As far as transportation is concerned there is probably a limit to how effective filtering can be, so the solution lies in requiring cars that burn lower amounts of fuel.

We are equally careless about fossil fuel burning for power and heat generation. There are smoke washing technologies that are feasible, but very seldom are they implemented and when they are they depend on regular maintenance.

I have written about what I expect to create a problem of public health at the proposed new biomass generating plant in Port Talbot, in West Glamorgan, Wales. I am concerned that in the rush to fire a silver environmental bullet in the form of biomass, the explosion from the firearm will cause more damage than the bullet will remedy.

Maintenance is an important part of keeping down particulate pollution. You have to maintain your vehicle, and prove that it is maintained once a year, but in that year many pollutants can escape because the vehicle owner has not carried out a maintenance item either because he has been too lazy or because he could not afford to do it.

Unfortunately maintenance is often the first thing to be cut out when a family runs into financial difficulty or a business needs to perk up its profits or a nation needs to reduce its expenditure. Across the world many public transport systems, like that of London’s famous Underground, have slowly decayed from lack of maintenance.

Dr Baccarelli has provided the warning about yet another health consequence of air pollution. It took us fifty years to heed similar warnings about tobacco smoke, twenty years to heed warnings about lead in petrol; I wonder how long it will take us to heed Dr Baccareli’s warning.

5 Responses

  1. I completely agree and feel somewhat stressed at the alarming rate we keep finding how much polluting the air is harming us.

  2. Robert,

    As you mention above that public transport systems in many countries have been neglected, however Athens has worked so hard to improve its underground and reduce cars using the roads it is a joy to use and during the hot months in Athens it is refreshing to travel in its cool environment, importantly security issues are addressed adequately by having armed police constantly on the platform.
    Your Blog article; “Damage we suffer from fossil fuel burning both seen and unseen” which features a picture of the “acropolis” is somewhat negative about the situation in Athens. I think really that the pollution in Athens is exasperated by the heat. Greece is a world leader in the use of Solar Thermal Panels.

    Regards Peter Burke

  3. Peter

    Athens is much improved in transport as a result of the infrastructure spending when they were awarded the Olympics. They used that excuse to build a super underground.

    The Acropolis was rebuilt around 2500 years ago; the polution affceted it only in the 20th Century.

    I don’t want to paint a negative picture of Atherns – I love the city.


  4. Informative and slightly worrying article to an asthma sufferer.

  5. Not much you can do excpet keep your own carbon footprint small.


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