Smog takes away sleep, but the heart and lungs remain the first “victims”

Smog takes away sleep, but the heart and lungs remain the first “victims”

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OfElena Meli

Among the consequences of air pollution there are also those on the nervous system and insomnia, with worsening of depression and even night rest

The poisoned air of the cities takes your breath away, but not only that. The list of smog damage continues to grow: during the last RespiraMI conference, which was held in recent days in Milan to take stock of the effects of pollution on healthfurther evidence has emerged of how harmful pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and airborne particulates are.
Now they are especially concerned about consequences on mental health e brainwhich until some time ago were not included among the targets of smog: the data from the DeprAir study, coordinated by Michele Carugno of the Irccs Ca’ Granda Foundation – Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico in Milan, demonstrate for example on approximately 500 patients with depression that the symptoms of mood disorder they become more acute when the air is dirtiest.

If the air is more polluted, depression worsens

With a increase of 10 micrograms per cubic meter of nitrogen dioxidewhose main sources are the car traffic and the heatingthe depression gets worse and so does social functioning; with an analogue increase of the levels of particulate matter the effects are evident especially in those who have a more unstable balance because, for example, they have other chronic pathologies with a fair level of general inflammation, such as diabetes. And when the air is more polluted, those who suffer from depression also get worse.appetite and sleep.
«These, together with many other data that have emerged in recent times, confirm that we must Act on a personal, community and political level to reduce smog», observes Sergio Harari, director of the Pneumology and Internal Medicine operational unit of the San Giuseppe MultiMedica hospital in Milan and scientific co-coordinator of the RespiraMI conference.

Effects of smog on fetuses and children

Harari continues: «We cannot stop breathing, but on the days when they are registered smog peaksfor example, we can protect ourselves by dating FFP2 masks. Even simple common sense rules can help: it’s better do not do physical activity such as running in areas with heavy trafficif you have them small children you should prefer strollers that keep them higher than street level.”
An essential caution because, for example, a Danish study conducted in 2023 on one million children and young people up to the age of 19 shows that early exposure to smogeven at levels that are not necessarily high, increases the risk of falling ill asthma. Not to mention the effects of pollution about those who don’t yet it’s not even born: a Spanish research that followed around a thousand future mothers and their babies found that exposure to smog during pregnancy has effects on fetal brain development e Then of the baby after birth, modifying parameters such as nerve connections and motor and cognitive development. A fact that confirms what has emerged from studies.

How to improve air quality (indoor and outdoor)

“We are not as helpless as we think in the face of the smog in our cities,” says Harari. «We can do a lot for example improve indoor air quality, where we spend most of our time: examples of good habits are airing the rooms early in the morning, when there are few cars even on the busiest streets; enrich the environments with greenery, which purifies the air; limit the use of stoves and fireplaces or at least check that they are well installed and that maintenance is correct. “Also other daily choices they impact much more than we think on air quality and we are all called to commit: choosing sustainable mobility, not eating out-of-season foods or reducing the consumption of intensively reared animals are all means that each of us has to contribute decisively to improving the air we breathe”, he concludes .

However, the heart and lungs remain the first “victims”

Heart And lungs it’s first «victims» of smog: nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter are held directly responsible for an increased risk of cardiovascular events such as stroke And heart attacksas well as respiratory diseases And lung cancer. New data presented at the RespiraMI congress also underline that the global warming can further exacerbate the consequences of smog precisely on the heart and vessels, because with the increase in temperatures the pollutants become even more harmful to the cardiovascular system. Interventions aimed at reducing traffic can, however, protect citizens’ health: in Germany, for example, a study in 69 cities showed that the introduction of limited traffic zones reduced heart problems by 2-3 percent and by 7 -12 percent strokes, especially in the elderly.

In Milan those who live in the suburbs suffer more

L’polluted air kills more in the suburbs than in the city center: this is indicated by research by the Milan Health Protection Agency which in the Lombardy capital has created, neighborhood by neighborhood, a mapping of the levels of pollutants and the related effects on mortality. The data, from 2019, shows a higher rate of deaths attributable to nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter in some peripheral areas of Milanespecially those crossed by very busy and densely populated road arteries, with many elderly citizens, while peripheral areas where there are more vegetable gardens, sports and green spaces or a lower population density suffer less. Beyond the impact on individual neighborhoods, thehigh number of deaths For cardiovascular causes, respiratory and for lung cancer to be attributed to smog: in Milan alone at least 3 thousand deaths a year. The estimates for the rest of Italy are no better, on the contrary: chronic exposure to PM2.5 in concentrations above 5 milligrams per cubic meter causes over 72 thousand deaths a year, of which almost 40 thousand in the Po Valley.

April 1, 2024

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