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Pollution link to pneumonia

15th April 2008

A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham has suggested that high amounts of pollution could have been a contributing factor in pneumonia deaths in England.

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The researchers, who published the results of their study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, looked at death rates from pneumonia and pollution counts in 352 local authorities between 1996-2004.

The team cross-referenced above average death rates in each local authority with pollution counts.

386,374 deaths were caused by pneumonia during 1996-2004. London's Lewisham authority had the most deaths, while Berwick-on-Tweed had the fewest.

35 local authorities were identified as having the most cases of the disease. In these areas the team discovered there were "14,718 more deaths than the national average" and many more cases of particular cancers, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The researchers calculated the number of "excess deaths" per year which were caused by pollution could be similar to the number which occurred during the London smog in 1952, which caused 4,000 deaths.

"High mortality rates were observed in areas with elevated ambient pollution levels," said Professor George Knox, the report's author. "The strongest single effect was an increase in pneumonia deaths."

He added: "Road transport was the chief source of the emissions responsible, although it was not possible to discriminate between the different chemical components".



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