Air pollution trapped along the Wasatch Front by winter inversions are estimated to send more than 200 people to the emergency room with pneumonia each year, according to a study by University of Utah Health and Intermountain Healthcare. Bad air quality especially erodes the health of adults over age 65, a population particularly vulnerable to the effects of pneumonia.
“When exposed to elevated levels of particulate pollution, older adults are more likely to get pneumonia, be hospitalized with severe pneumonia and also die from pneumonia in the hospital,” says the study’s lead author Cheryl Pirozzi, M.D., a pulmonologist and assistant professor of Internal Medicine at University of Utah Health. The research findings were published online in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.
Improving air quality would not only keep people out of the hospital, the investigation reports, but would also save up to $1.6 million in health care costs along the Wasatch Front each year.
“The relationship of air pollution to the severity of pneumonia was particularly striking,” says co-author Robert Paine, M.D., a pulmonologist and professor of Internal Medicine at U of U Health. “These are not just theoretical risks, but are important events for real members of our community. This study also shows just the tip of the iceberg of the costs we in Utah bear as a result of air pollution.”
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Image credit: University of Utah