NaturalNews) Just two hours on a busy city street is enough to cause damage to your lungs and arteries, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust in the United Kingdom.
The findings came just weeks after the European Court of Justice ruled that air pollution levels in 16 British cities were so high as to place the British government in violation of EU law.
“This European Court of Justice judgement is a damning indictment of the Tory-led Government’s total failure to tackle the UK’s air pollution,” said Shadow Environment Secretary Maria Eagle. “Air pollution is a serious public health issue facing our towns and cities, tens of thousands of lives are lost each year and yet David Cameron’s government has done nothing to solve the problem.”
Diesel fumes especially dangerous
The researchers found that just two hours of exposure to traffic fumes caused significant reductions in lung capacity among people with respiratory conditions such as chronic bronchitis or emphysema. The most dangerous chemicals appeared to be nitrogen dioxide from diesel engines, which in London includes both buses and taxis.
Diesel fumes also contain microscopic carbon particles that are believed to enter the blood and increase the risk of heart attack.
The study shows the need to reduce traffic-related pollution, said Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation.
The recent findings reinforce prior research, which has shown that air pollution significantly increases the risk of heart and lung diseases. In fact, a study conducted by researchers from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Great Britain and published in the journal BMC Public Health in 2007 actually found that living in a major city placed a person at greater risk of premature death than exposure to the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear meltdown did.
The researchers found that firefighters who responded to the 1986 disaster and people who continued to live in the exclusion zone around the radioactive plant were 1 percent more likely to die early than people who had not been exposed to that much radiation (the equivalent of 12,000 chest X-rays). In contrast, inhabitants of central London were 2.8 percent more likely to die from heart and lung disease linked to air pollution than inhabitants of Inverness, the least polluted city in Britain.
“Populations still living unofficially in the abandoned lands around Chernobyl may actually have a lower health risk for radiation than they would have if they were exposed to air pollution in a large city,” researcher Jim Smith wrote.