Increased Hospital Admissions due to Air Pollution

Increased Hospital Admissions due to Air Pollution

Why is there an increase in hospital admissions due to air pollution? It is well known that both short and long-term exposure to air pollution increases the rate of hospital admissions and make the case for hospital air filtration. To quote just one study, from researchers at Harvard School of Public Health Health, every 10 microgram increase in long-term PM2.5 exposure caused:

  • A 4.22 % increase in hospital admissions for respiratory conditions, including asthma
  • A 3.12 % increase in hospital admissions for cardiovascular conditions
  • A 3.49 % increase in hospital admissions for stroke
  • A 6.33 % increase in hospital admissions for diabetes.

PM2.5 stands for particulate matter with a size of 2.5 microns or below. These tiny particles, coated in soot and other chemicals penetrate deep into the lung, causing inflammation which is the underlying cause of many health problems. Other forms of pollution, like ozone and nitrogen oxides, are also linked to increased hospital admissions. It is children, the elderly and those with chronic disease such as heart disease, asthma, and diabetes, who are the most at risk from air pollution and thus more likely to be admitted to the hospital due to elevated pollution levels.

Of course, hospital admissions cost money. The government's Air Quality Strategy of 2007 put the cost of the health impact of poor air quality in the UK between £8.5 billion and £20.2 billion per annum. This figure is based mainly upon the cost of life-years cost (put simply, dead people don't pay tax or produce anything). It's interesting that the Environmental Audit Committee commented that this figure is not dissimilar to the costs of alcohol misuse to society – we hear plenty about the latter, but not so much about the health toll of air pollution. Also, the cost of £8.5 billion to £20.5 billion due to air pollution is an underestimate because it takes account only of mortality, not morbidity (illness) so does not include hospital admission costs. Focusing just upon asthma, there are around 74,000 emergency admissions for asthma every year in the UK and Asthma UK tells us that each hospital admission will cost the health service around £600. The links between asthma and poor air quality are well established, so some of the total cost of asthma-related admissions to the hospital will be attributed to air pollution exposure.

Meanwhile, Sussex Air Quality Partnership (a partnership between the various local authorities in the county) is working with King’s College environmental researchers to find out how much money could be saved in terms of reduced hospital admissions and GP visits if the air quality was improved. They have their own air quality alert service to give out information to those at risk and, of course, there is also the national Daily Air Quality Index which is available nationwide. This information is useful in helping people plan activities, and it is important to understand that air quality - especially indoor air quality - is in the same category as smoking, obesity and alcohol consumption as a health risk factor. While outdoor air quality is controlled through effective environmental legislation, exposure to indoor air pollution is only controlled through individual behavioural change and the use of proper hospital air filtration.

To find out more about how indoor air quality can be improved to both help reduce hospital admissions and the financial burden on hospitals and other organisations, call us and speak to a member of our expert team - 020 3176 0524.  Many of our customers depend on IQAir systems such as the IQAir CleanZone SL to protect themselves and those they are responsible for from indoor air contamination such as PM2.5 and ozone.

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