Mounting Evidence, Collapsing Public Health

  • 14/04/2002
  • WHO

Mounting Evidence, Collapsing Public Health FINE KILL
The health effect of ULTRAFINE particles - smaller than 0.1 micron in diameter - on human health was never properly studied. Epidemiological studies done till now only linked the effects of these particles on respiratory diseases not death. A German study sponsored by the Health Effects Institute has come as a breakthrough. Conducted in a small town of Erfurt, this is the first to show that ultrafine particles are also associated with human mortality. The investigators also found a delayed effect for ultrafine particles against an immediate effect for fine particles.

Six per cent of all deaths in Austria France and Switzerland are due to PM10 - more than 400deaths per year - half of which are due to vehicular emissions according to a WHO report of 1999.Vehicular pollution is also responsible for more than 250new cases of chronic bronchitis in adults more than 2900episodes of bronchitis in children and more than 5000asthma attacks. The number of people dying from air pollution was twice to those dying from traffic accidents. Lifespan of people in cities was reduced by 18 months.

Dirty cousins
Two things are common to Latin American countries and Indian cities: poor air quality and few health-impact studies. That"s why studies conducted in those countries are pointers to what could be the situation in India. A study in Mexico City from 1990-1992 observed a six per cent increase in daily mortality associated with an increase of 100