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UM study suggests long term exposure to air pollution could affect how independently seniors can live

Distant smokestack plume, illustrating how far air pollution can drift from one source.
Lester Graham
Michigan Public
Distant smokestack plume, illustrating how far air pollution can drift from one source.

New research from the University of Michigan links long term exposure to air pollution to how independently you are able to live in old age.

Dr. Boya Zhang is the lead author of the study, published in Network Open with the Journal of the American Medical Association.

She said living for a long period near smokestacks or freeways can take its toll.

“What we forecast is long term effects of air pollution may have a long term effect on your health. So, that’s why we focus on the older population.”

The study looked at data from more than 25,000 study participants, or their survivors.

“To explore whether there is an association between the air pollution exposure and also the loss of independence,” Zhang said.

Nearly 40% of the study participants reported a new loss of independence during the ten years they were followed. They needed help with things such as shopping, bathing, dressing, and so on.

It suggests long term exposure can have health effects beyond chronic diseases commonly linked to air pollution from nearby traffic or smokestack industries.

Copyright 2024 Michigan Public

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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