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Many measures have been introduced around the world with the aim of reducing outdoor air pollution and concomitantly improving public health. These efforts include, for example, the regulation of industrial emissions, the establishment of low emission zones and the subsidies for public transport, as well as restrictions on the use of wood and coal for heating in private households. The link between these actions and improved air quality and health seems obvious, but it is actually very difficult to quantify their effects. "It's quite a challenge to evaluate the introduction of a measure like the low emission zone," says Jacob Burns from the Institute for Medical Information Processing, Biometry and Epidemiology (IBE) at the LMU's Pettenkofer School of Public Health.
The negative effects of air pollution on public health linked to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, among others, are well established. But whether measures designed to improve outdoor air quality actually reduce the concentration of pollutants and mitigate their effects on public health is less clear. "It's important to remember how many factors influence both air quality and the relevant health conditions," says Burns. "Levels of energy consumption in industry, transport and domestic households all play a substantial role in air pollution levels, as does the weather," he points out. And with respect to health, the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, to cite one example, is influenced not only by particulate matter and other pollutants we breathe in, but also by numerous genetic, physiological and social risk factors. "This illustrates how difficult it can be to attribute changes in air pollutant concentrations, numbers of individuals admitted to hospitals, or mortality rates to any single measure."
Difficulties - Review - Cochrane - Library - Cochrane
These difficulties are reflected in the new review published in the Cochrane Library. Cochrane is a network of...
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