Newswise — The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) warns today that government agencies must not become complacent in the effort to provide clean air to all citizens. Despite the advancements that have been made since the 1963 introduction of the Clean Air Act in the United States, much more remains to be done. The most recent example of this is a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine looking at 12 years of Medicare beneficiary data, which showed the risk of death increased in proportion to the amount of fine particulate matter in the atmosphere. Most concerning was the finding that, although the current National Ambient Air Quality Standards declare that 12 micrograms per cubic meter of fine, inhalable particles (those with an aerodynamic diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less, or “PM2.5”) is an acceptable level, there was a 13.6% increase in the risk of death for every increase in 10 micrograms of fine particles per cubic meter of air below that “acceptable” threshold. The study also found there was no “safe” level of exposure, or level where the risk of death was unchanged.

Major producers of PM2.5 particles globally include the burning of solid fuels (such as coal and wood), and various fuels for transportation. “More than 2.8 billion people worldwide use solid fuel for cooking, and many more use solid fuels for heating their homes,” according to Dr. Akshay Sood, Professor of Medicine at the University of New Mexico and member of FIRS Environmental Committee.

Dr. Sood continues, “People have seen pictures of New Delhi, Beijing, or Los Angeles smog. This smog is made up of these fine particles. It is concerning that communities in the United States that meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards and believe their air is ‘safe’ may not entirely be protected from the adverse health effects of PM2.5.” Certain segments of the population, such as children, the elderly, and those with cardiopulmonary diseases are at higher risk of the health effects of pollution.

Inadequate outdoor air quality affects many people around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 92% of the world’s population live in areas with inadequate outdoor air quality, and this pollution contributes to 1 out of every 8 deaths. This new data from the United States should spur governments to redouble their efforts to provide their citizens with the cleanest air possible. FIRS strongly recommends compliance with WHO Air Quality Guidelines, as well as the Paris Climate Agreement.

About FIRS:
The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) is an organization comprised of the world’s leading international respiratory societies working together to improve lung health globally: American Thoracic Society (ATS), American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), Asociación Latino Americana De Tórax (ALAT), Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR), European Respiratory Society (ERS), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (The Union), the Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS), the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung (GOLD), and the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA). The goal of FIRS is to unify and enhance efforts to improve lung health through the combined work of its more than 70,000 members globally.

About the American Thoracic Society:
Founded in 1905, the American Thoracic Society is the world's leading medical association dedicated to advancing pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine. The Society’s 15,000 members prevent and fight respiratory disease around the globe through research, education, patient care and advocacy. The ATS publishes three journals, the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology and the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

Journal Link: NEJM