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Intervention to Reduce Air Pollution Tied to Drop in Deaths

All-cause, cardiovascular, respiratory death down with drop in air pollution from wood smoke

THURSDAY, Jan. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Decreased air pollution from wood-burning stove use during the winter months in Launceston, Australia, correlated with a decrease in annual mortality among males, according to research published online Jan. 8 in BMJ.

Fay H. Johnson, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., of the University of Tasmania in Australia, and colleagues used data from 67,000 residents of central Launceston to evaluate the effect of reduced air pollution from biomass smoke on mortality in the 6.5 years before and after a wood heater replacement program was instituted. The changes in mortality were compared with those in Hobart, a similar city, in which no specific air quality interventions were implemented.

The researchers found that, in Launceston, the average daily concentration of particulate matter less than 10 micrometers in diameter (PM10) decreased from 44 to 27 µg/m³ from 1994-2000 to 2001-2007. For men, the all-cause annual mortality rate declined significantly by 11.4 percent, and cardiovascular and respiratory rates were significantly reduced by 17.9 and 22.8 percent, respectively. In the winter, mortality due to cardiovascular and respiratory causes were borderline significantly reduced for men and women combined. In Hobart, there were no significant changes in mortality.

"Given the clear and consistent difference in results between the intervention and the non-intervention populations, our findings suggest that the improved air quality in Launceston was associated with reductions in mortality," the authors write. "Our findings highlight the potential for important public health gains from interventions to reduce ambient pollution from biomass smoke."

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