Associate Professor Simon Kingham, from the University of Canterbury, talks about how there is an association between the level of air pollution and people’s health. It seems that people who live in areas with higher air pollution are more likely to get illnesses related to air pollution such as colds, flu, asthma, emphysema, lung cancer, and even heart attacks.
DR SIMON KINGHAM
There is a number of ways that we actually try and establish the link between ill health and pollution. We compare areas where there is low pollution with areas where there is high pollution. What you find is, across a number of studies, that areas where the air pollution is worse, more people get sick. And we control for things like socio-economic status, employment, smoking habits etc. So a number of studies have shown that, where everything is the same, but pollution is higher in one area, you get more people dying from pollution-related illness and more people going off sick and more people going to the doctor. The other way we look at it is you compare the health of people after high air pollution nights. So there has been some studies done in Christchurch, and other parts of the world, which show that, after you have a high pollution night, more people go to the hospital the day or so after, and more people die after high pollution nights. So you can't actually prove that those people who die or go to hospital went because of the air pollution, but you can show that more people went to hospital with air pollution-related illnesses. The most obvious ones and common ones are breathing-related illness. They can include people getting coughs and colds, people experiencing asthma, they can include other respiratory illnesses like emphysema and bronchitis, and they can also include lung cancer. More recently, research is being done saying that there is a link being shown with heart conditions, and the idea is that, as you breathe in, your body is put under stress with the air quality, and your heart therefore struggles to cope, and people have been shown to have more heart condition problems and heart-related deaths as a result of air pollution.