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Cleaner Air Leads to Healthier Lungs
Date:12/5/2007

The reduction in lung function was "significantly larger" than what was measured after the Hyde Park walk and was accompanied by an increase in biomarkers of lung inflammation. The negative effect on the lung was greater than has been seen in animal studies using breathing chambers, Zhang said.

The Swiss study found a decrease in the amount of airborne fine particulate pollutants, a major feature of diesel emissions. That improvement in Swiss air quality was accompanied by a slowing in the rate of the loss of breathing function that occurs as people age, Ackerman-Liebrich said. The journal report attributed the healthful effect to "decreasing exposure to airborne particulates."

"There seems to be something more potent than other forms of air pollution in diesel exhausts," said Dr. Morton Lippman, a professor of environmental medicine at New York University. "It is something many other studies have pointed to."

The issue of diesel pollution is of growing interest because "new diesel technologies are increasingly coming on the market," Lippmann said. Diesel automobiles are much more common in Europe than in the United States but are gaining attention because of their greater fuel efficiency, he noted.

The two studies are welcome because they assess the effect of diesel emissions at relatively low levels, Lippmann said. "That remains a complex issue," he said. "Getting statistically significant information on a small average effect on a large population is not easy. There are a lot of unknowns. Most effects are associated with particles rather than gases in the mixture, but there is no data on which part of the components is particularly nasty."

More information

A national program for cleaner diesel emissions is described by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.



SOURCES: Ursula Ackerman-L
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