Long-term exposure to pollution—especially ground-level ozone—is just as bad for your health as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for many years, per a just released study.
Over 7,000 adults, ages 45-84, were studied over a 10-year period in six U.S. cities: Chicago, Los Angeles, Baltimore, New York City, Winston-Salem, and St. Paul.
All were healthy when starting the study. But exposure to air pollution led to emphysema, a chronic lung condition that makes it difficult to breathe and is most often associated with cigarette smoking.
“The increase in emphysema we observed was relatively large, similar to the lung damage caused by 29 pack-years of smoking and 3 years of aging,” said lead study author Dr. R. Graham Barr at Columbia University Medical Center.