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Concept: Acid rain


BACKGROUND: Environmental pollution is a known risk factor for multiple diseases and furthermore increases rate of hospitalisations. We investigated the correlation between emergency room admissions (ERAs) of the general population for respiratory diseases and the environmental pollutant levels in Milan, a metropolis in northern Italy. METHODS: We collected data from 45770 ERAs for respiratory diseases. A time-stratified case-crossover design was used to investigate the association between air pollution levels and ERAs for acute respiratory conditions. The effects of air pollutants were investigated at lag 0 to lag 5, lag 0–2 and lag 3–5 in both single and multi-pollutant models, adjusted for daily weather variables. RESULTS: An increase in ozone (O3) levels at lag 3–5 was associated with a 78% increase in the number of ERAs for asthma, especially during the warm season. Exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) proved to be a risk factor for pneumonia at lag 0–2 and in the warm season increased the risk of ERA by 66%. A significant association was found between ERAs for COPD exacerbation and levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2), CO, nitrate dioxide (NO2), and particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5). The multipollutant model that includes all pollutants showed a significant association between CO (26%) and ERA for upper respiratory tract diseases at lag 0–2. For chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbations, only CO (OR 1.19) showed a significant association. CONCLUSIONS: Exposure to environmental pollution, even at typical low levels, can increase the risk of ERA for acute respiratory diseases and exacerbation of obstructive lung diseases in the general population.

Concepts: Pulmonology, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Respiratory system, Pollution, Particulate, Smog, Air pollution, Acid rain


The U.S. health care sector is highly interconnected with industrial activities that emit much of the nation’s pollution to air, water, and soils. We estimate emissions directly and indirectly attributable to the health care sector, and potential harmful effects on public health. Negative environmental and public health outcomes were estimated through economic input-output life cycle assessment (EIOLCA) modeling using National Health Expenditures (NHE) for the decade 2003-2013 and compared to national totals. In 2013, the health care sector was also responsible for significant fractions of national air pollution emissions and impacts, including acid rain (12%), greenhouse gas emissions (10%), smog formation (10%) criteria air pollutants (9%), stratospheric ozone depletion (1%), and carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic air toxics (1-2%). The largest contributors to impacts are discussed from both the supply side (EIOLCA economic sectors) and demand side (NHE categories), as are trends over the study period. Health damages from these pollutants are estimated at 470,000 DALYs lost from pollution-related disease, or 405,000 DALYs when adjusted for recent shifts in power generation sector emissions. These indirect health burdens are commensurate with the 44,000-98,000 people who die in hospitals each year in the U.S. as a result of preventable medical errors, but are currently not attributed to our health system. Concerted efforts to improve environmental performance of health care could reduce expenditures directly through waste reduction and energy savings, and indirectly through reducing pollution burden on public health, and ought to be included in efforts to improve health care quality and safety.

Concepts: Health economics, Medicine, Ozone depletion, Smog, Air pollution, Greenhouse gas, Ozone, Acid rain


Severe haze is a major public health concern in China and India. Both countries rely heavily on coal for energy, and sulfur dioxide (SO2) emitted from coal-fired power plants and industry is a major pollutant contributing to their air quality problems. Timely, accurate information on SO2 sources is a required input to air quality models for pollution prediction and mitigation. However, such information has been difficult to obtain for these two countries, as fast-paced changes in economy and environmental regulations have often led to unforeseen emission changes. Here we use satellite observations to show that China and India are on opposite trajectories for sulfurous pollution. Since 2007, emissions in China have declined by 75% while those in India have increased by 50%. With these changes, India is now surpassing China as the world’s largest emitter of anthropogenic SO2. This finding, not predicted by emission scenarios, suggests effective SO2 control in China and lack thereof in India. Despite this, haze remains severe in China, indicating the importance of reducing emissions of other pollutants. In India, ~33 million people now live in areas with substantial SO2 pollution. Continued growth in emissions will adversely affect more people and further exacerbate morbidity and mortality.

Concepts: Oxygen, Pollution, Sulfur, Pyrite, Smog, Volcano, Sulfur dioxide, Acid rain


Exposure to ambient air pollutants has been associated with increased lung cancer incidence and mortality, but due to the high case fatality rate, little is known about the impacts of air pollution exposures on survival after diagnosis. This study aimed to determine whether ambient air pollutant exposures are associated with the survival of patients with lung cancer.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Lung cancer, Pollution, Environmentalism, National Ambient Air Quality Standards, Air pollution, Acid rain, Cruise ship pollution


Research into environmental factors associated with suicide has historically focused on meteorological variables. Recently, a heightened risk of suicide related to short-term exposure to airborne particulate matter was reported. Here, we examined the associations between short-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide and completed suicide in Salt Lake County, Utah (n = 1,546) from 2000 to 2010. We used a time-stratified case-crossover design to estimate adjusted odds ratios for the relationship between suicide and exposure to air pollutants on the day of the suicide and during the days preceding the suicide. We observed maximum heightened odds of suicide associated with interquartile-range increases in nitrogen dioxide during cumulative lag 3 (average of the 3 days preceding suicide; odds ratio (OR) = 1.20, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.04, 1.39) and fine particulate matter (diameter ≤2.5 μm) on lag day 2 (day 2 before suicide; OR = 1.05, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.10). Following stratification by season, an increased suicide risk was associated with exposure to nitrogen dioxide during the spring/fall transition period (OR = 1.35, 95% CI: 1.09, 1.66) and fine particulate matter in the spring (OR = 1.28, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.61) during cumulative lag 3. Findings of positive associations between air pollution and suicide appear to be consistent across study locations with vastly different meteorological, geographical, and cultural characteristics.

Concepts: Oxide, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate, Smog, Air pollution, Volcano, Dust, Acid rain


To study the correlation between the levels of environmental pollutants and the number of paediatric consultations related to respiratory disease in Primary Health Care.

Concepts: Health care, Medicine, Biodiversity, Environment, Pollution, Environmentalism, Acid rain, Cruise ship pollution


Approaches to estimating and addressing the risk to children from fossil fuel combustion have been fragmented, tending to focus either on the toxic air emissions or on climate change. Yet developing children, and especially poor children, now bear a disproportionate burden of disease from both environmental pollution and climate change due to fossil fuel combustion.

Concepts: Environmentalism, Global warming, Acid rain


Using dendroisotopic techniques, we show the recovery of Juniperus virginiana L. (eastern red cedar) trees in the Central Appalachian Mountains from decades of acidic pollution. Acid deposition over much of the 20th century reduced stomatal conductance of leaves, thereby increasing intrinsic water-use efficiency of the Juniperus trees. These data indicate that the stomata of Juniperus may be more sensitive to acid deposition than to increasing atmospheric CO2. A breakpoint in the 100-y δ(13)C tree ring chronology occurred around 1980, as the legacy of sulfur dioxide emissions declined following the enactment of the Clean Air Act in 1970, indicating a gradual increase in stomatal conductance (despite rising levels of atmospheric CO2) and a concurrent increase in photosynthesis related to decreasing acid deposition and increasing atmospheric CO2. Tree ring δ(34)S shows a synchronous change in the sources of sulfur used at the whole-tree level that indicates a reduced anthropogenic influence. The increase in growth and the δ(13)C and δ(34)S trends in the tree ring chronology of these Juniperus trees provide evidence for a distinct physiological response to changes in atmospheric SO2 emissions since ∼1980 and signify the positive impacts of landmark environmental legislation to facilitate recovery of forest ecosystems from acid deposition.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Sulfur, Sulfuric acid, Sulfur dioxide, Acid rain, Dendrochronology


Panel studies show a consistent association between increase in the cardiovascular hospitalizations with air pollutants in economically developed regions, but little evidence in less developed inland areas. In this study, a time-series analysis was used to examine the specific effects of major air pollutants [particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter (PM(10)), sulfur dioxide (SO(2)), and nitrogen dioxides (NO(2))] on daily hospital admissions for cardio-cerebrovascular diseases in Lanzhou, a heavily polluted city in China. We examined the effects of air pollutants for stratified groups by age and gender, and conducted the modifying effect of seasons on air pollutants to test the possible interaction. The significant associations were found between PM(10), SO(2) and NO(2) and cardiac disease admissions, SO(2) and NO(2) were found to be associated with the cerebrovascular disease admissions. The elderly was associated more strongly with gaseous pollutants than younger. The modifying effect of seasons on air pollutants also existed. The significant effect of gaseous pollutants (SO(2) and NO(2)) was found on daily hospital admissions even after adjustment for other pollutants except for SO(2) on cardiac diseases. In a word, this study provides the evidence for the detrimental short-term health effects of urban gaseous pollutants on cardio-cerebrovascular diseases in Lanzhou.

Concepts: Oxygen, Pollution, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate, Smog, Sulfuric acid, Volcano, Acid rain


Leukaemia risk in adult populations exposed to environmental air pollution is poorly investigated. We have carried out a population-based case-control study in an area that included a fossil fuel power plant, a coke oven and two big chemical industries. Information on residential history and several risk factors for leukaemia was obtained from 164 cases, diagnosed between 2002 and 2005, and 279 controls. A higher risk for subjects residing in polluted areas was observed, but statistical significance was not reached (adjusted OR = 1.11 and 1.56 for subjects living in moderately and in heavily polluted zones, respectively, p = 0.190). Results suggest a possible aetiological role of residential air pollution from industrial sites on the risk of developing leukaemia in adult populations. However, the proportion of eligible subjects excluded from the study and the lack of any measure of air pollution prevent definitive conclusions from being drawn.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Industrial Revolution, Pollution, Fossil fuel, Coal, Environmentalism, Acid rain, Industry