For about 50 years, scientists have tried to unravel the human health impacts of air pollution. For most of those years, the focus has been on the lungs.
“We know now that the mortality is mostly from cardiovascular causes,” Araujo said. “That’s something that has become more clear over the last seven years or so.”
Still, there are many more questions to address.
What happens when people are exposed to multiple pollutants at the same time? How do particles and gases interact? What exactly does each pollutant do to the heart? Which sources pose the most risk? Is it mostly size of particles that matters or the ingredients?
And perhaps the most critical question of all: How much cleaner does the air need to be?
“The more scientists look, the more they find effects at lower exposures,” Ospital said. “This is a question that always comes up, how low do we need to go to protect public health? It seems to be a moving target in terms of where the health effects are, where we really need to go to have health protection.”
This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.