Research on air pollution has been conducted worldwide for decades and is part of the basis for government regulation of air quality. Study after study has found more hospitalizations and higher death rates when certain pollutants are high. In addition to respiratory effects, research has established that air pollution increases the risk of cardiovascular events such as arrhythmia, heart attack and stroke, and the incidence of certain cancers.
In the appendicitis study...scientists found a significant effect of pollutants on appendicitis rates in the summer months among men, but not women.
The risk of going to the hospital with appendicitis more than doubled when summer pollution was at its highest, says study lead author Dr. Gilaad Kaplan, a physician-researcher at the University of Calgary.
In the ear infection study...Four pollutants -- carbon monoxide, nitrous dioxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter -- decreased nationwide over the 10-year period. The number of children reported as having more than three ear infections in a year also declined...(T)he study cannot say air pollution causes ear infections, only that the two are associated. And it did not investigate how pollutants affect the ear canal.
But it's not a stretch to go from respiratory illness to ear infection, says lead author Dr. Nina Shapiro, a pediatric otolaryngologist at UCLA School of Medicine. Pollutants have been shown to damage cilia -- tiny little hairs that line many of the body's passageways.
If that occurs in the ear, Shapiro says, then the cleansing process is damaged or slowed, which could set the stage for infection.
The evidence just continues to mount that the sooner we get off of fossil fuels and on to a clean energy-powered economy, the better for both the planet and for ourselves.
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