Particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) not only increased the risk of pulmonary tuberculosis, but also accounted for substantial death burden of chronic diseases including ischemic heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It was estimated that over 6,000 people died from the exposure of PM2.5 last year, according to the latest research led by Dr. Hsien-Ho Lin and Dr. Chang-Chuan Chan from the College of Public Health at National Taiwan University (NTU). These findings will be published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine and Journal of the Formosan Medical Association.
The research team explored the association between outdoor air pollution and active tuberculosis by conducting a cohort study of a community-based screening service in New Taipei city. They found that a 10 µg/m3 increase in PM2.5 exposure was associated with 39 percent increased risk of active tuberculosis. Moreover, traffic-related air pollution including nitrogen dioxide (33 percent increased risk per 10 ppb), nitrogen oxides (21 percent increased risk per 10 ppb) was associated with active tuberculosis risk. The lead author of this study is Ting-Chun Lai, a former master student of NTU.
In another study, Wei-Cheng Lo, a doctoral candidate from NTU College of Public Health, linked the relative risk functions and PM2.5 exposure levels obtained from Taiwan Air Quality Monitoring Network in order to quantify the burden of mortality attributable to PM2.5 among Taiwan’s population in 2014 at the national and subnational levels. More than 6,000 deaths were associated with PM2.5 in 2014, including 2,240 deaths from ischemic heart disease, 2,140 deaths from stroke, 1,250 deaths from lung cancer, and 645 deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The research team also revealed a substantial geographic variation in PM2.5 attributable mortality fraction; the percentage of deaths attributable to PM2.5 ranged from 8.7 percent in Hualian County to 21.8 percent in Yunlin County.
Ambient PM2.5 pollution is a major risk factor for communicable and non-communicable diseases in Taiwan. Aggressive and multi-sectorial intervention strategies are urgently needed to bring down the impact of air pollution on environment and health.