The World Health Organization estimates that at least 7 million people die each year from air pollution. According to a new long-term study, air pollution is also likely to increase the risk of irreversible vision loss.
Age-related yellow spot degeneration is the leading cause of blindness among people over the age of 50: by 2040, about 300 million people are projected to be affected by the disease. Known risk factors include age, smoking and genetics Researchers have now established a link between degeneration and air pollution, which is already known to carry many health risks, including heart and lung disease.
The researchers analyzed data from more than 115,000 participants who reported no vision problems at the start of the study period in 2006. Official data on traffic and levels of nitrous oxide and fine particulate matter were used to calculate average annual levels of air pollution at participants’ home addresses. A total of 1,286 participants were diagnosed with yellow spot degeneration by the end of the study period.
After accounting for other influencing factors, including underlying health conditions and lifestyle, exposure to fine particulate matter was associated with an 8% increase in an individual’s risk of developing the disease. “Overall, our results suggest that ambient air pollution, especially fine particulate matter (particulate matter) or particles associated with combustion, may affect the risk of disease and total blindness,” said the authors from Oxford University.