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According to the results of a long-term study published on Tuesday, air pollution is likely to increase the risk of irreversible vision loss.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness among rich countries over 50 years, with approximately 300 million people predicted to be affected by 2040.
Known risk factors include age, smoking, and genetic makeup.
Now researchers have drawn a link between AMD and air pollution, which are already known to host health risks including heart and lung disease.
Writing in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, the researchers analyzed data from more than 115,000 participants who reported no eye problems at the beginning of the study period in 2006.
Official data on traffic and levels of nitrous oxide and small particulate matter were used to calculate annual average air pollution levels at participants’ home addresses.
He was asked by a doctor to report a formal diagnosis of AMD and was tested on his vision performance several years later.
In all, 1,286 participants were diagnosed with AMD at the end of the study period.
After accounting for other influencing factors, including underlying health status and lifestyle, fine particulate exposure was associated with an eight percent greater risk of contracted AMD to a person.
The authors of the study stated, “Overall, our findings suggest that ambient air pollution, particularly fine (particulate matter) or combustion-related particles, may affect AMD risk.”
“Our findings add to the increasing evidence of the harmful effects of ambient air pollution, even in settings of relative low risk.”
The World Health Organization estimates that air pollution accounts for at least seven million deaths every year.
A separate study last week estimated that reducing air pollution to WHO-recommended levels could prevent more than 50,000 deaths annually across Europe.
Tuesday’s study was observable and therefore could not establish a causal link between air pollution and AMD.
But experts said it provides further evidence for the health risks of poor air quality.
Robert McLaren, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford, said, “The association of macular degeneration with smoking is well recognized, but this new discovery of an environmental link related to atmospheric pollution will further fuel the debate about climate change. . “
© 2021 AFP