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Clean air can help add 5 months to your life, study says

Posted on January 24th, 2009

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Want to Live Longer? Cut the Pollution
By Tiffany Sharples, TIME, Jan. 22, 2009

Nobody pretends that polluted air isn’t terrible for your health. Clean up the skies over any dirty city, and the people who live there will all but certainly become healthier. That, at least, has been popular wisdom, but until now, no one had ever put it to a statistical test. Now someone has, and the results are striking: according to a study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine, when local governments decide to scrub out the smog, local residents actually live an average of five months longer.

“It’s very reassuring,” says Dr. Douglas Dockery, one of the study’s three authors and an environmental epidemiologist at Harvard’s School of Public Health. “We can see some benefits from the regulations of air pollution that have been put in place in the past 20 to 30 years.”

In order to reach so precise a finding, the study’s authors had to do some exhaustive number-crunching, surveying pollution rates and longevity in 51 cities across the U.S. over a 21-year period from 1979 to 2000. Overall, they found that lifespan in all of the areas increased by an average of nearly three years — from 74 to 77 — as a result of a host of factors, most notably reduced smoking and improved income. But 15% of the change was attributable to cleaner air.

Read rest of the article here | Read the New England Journal of Medicine Report

Photo credit: springm

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