A new study has found a link between air pollution and serious health issues, including irreversible vision loss and blindness. The findings come as cities across the world have come under scrutiny for poor air quality despite a renewed commitment to green causes.
According to Science Alert, the study was performed by the United Kingdom Biobank Eye and Vision Consortium. Starting in 2006, the researchers asked 116,000 people from across the country to report if they were diagnosed with macular degeneration. In addition to the diagnosis, about half of the participants were asked to have an eye examination to determine changes in retinal thickness.
The scientists found that people who lived in areas with higher levels of pollution had higher rates of macular degeneration. The strongest correlation was pollution that had large amounts of small particles known as PM2.5.
These microscopic particles are less than 2.5 micrometers in size and are small enough to penetrate the lungs and enter the bloodstream. Scientists believe that the body becomes inflamed as a result of the particles, leading to diseases such as age-related macular degeneration.
"Our findings add to the growing evidence of the damaging effects of ambient air pollution, even in the setting of relative low exposure of ambient air pollution," the authors wrote.
The latest data comes after a 2019 paper found that high particulate levels in the environment were linked to glaucoma, another optical disease.
Air pollution is a global problem, affecting first- and third-world countries alike. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) claimed that over 90 percent of the global population live in areas where pollution exceeds suggested limits.
Fortunately, a number of governments are taking serious steps to prioritize better air quality.
"The good news is that ambient air pollution can be controlled and the diseases it causes prevented," noted Philip Landrigan, a physician and epidemiologist from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, who was not involved in the study.
"Cities and countries will need to switch to non-polluting energy sources, encourage active commuting, enhance their transportation networks, [and] redesign industrial processes to eliminate waste.""These changes will not be easy. They will need to overcome strong opposition by powerful vested interests. But, fortunately, the technical, institutional, and policy tools needed to control air pollution are already at hand," Landrigan concluded.
Poor air quality is not the only facet of modern life that can cause health risks. As covered by The Inquisitr, artificial light at night has similarly been linked to thyroid cancer.