How Humans Could Live Two Years Longer: Cut Air Pollution

You can’t see particles smaller than 2.5 microns. But they kill 3.4 million people a year. Climate change is going to have profound consequences on human health and survival. Most obviously, a hotter world means more heat stroke and other heat-caused deaths.

A recent study on the mortality cost of climate change found that every 4,434 metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted — about the combined lifetime emissions of 3.5 Americans, the study estimates — will cause a heat-related death this century.

But the situation is even worse than that number suggests. Danny Bressler, the environmental economist who authored the paper, notes his estimate leaves out some other potential climate-related deaths, like those from flooding and reduced food supply. He’s just estimating what higher temperatures alone will do, writing that he “does not consider likely mortality co-benefits of stricter climate policies, such as decreases in particulate matter pollution.”

That’s a technical way of putting it. Here’s a simpler way: When we burn fossil fuels, not all the resulting pollution goes up high into the atmosphere. Some of it accumulates in the air that we breathe every day.

And it kills us. A lot of us. The Global Burden of Disease study, a common benchmark for public health work, estimates that 3.4 million people die prematurely every year due to air pollution. More recent research puts the total even higher, at 10 million a year. A recent paper suggested that 90 percent of the world’s population lives in areas with air pollution higher than World Health Organization guidelines (guidelines that the organization itself is toughening).

The particles in question here are invisible to the naked eye — but their effects are anything wood

propanebut.

The public health threat of particulate matter

This problem goes by a lot of different names — “air pollution,” “low air quality,” “PM 2.5 pollution” — but it is directly tied to our climate problem.

Burning fossil fuels, in a car or steel mill or power plant, produces carbon dioxide and methane, but it also produces other pollutants. The term “PM 2.5” refers to particles smaller than 2.5 microns (or 0.0025 millimeters — tinier than a grain of sand) suspended in the air. Sometimes colloquially called “soot,” PM 2.5 usually comes from burning stuff: wood in fireplaces, propane in generators, coal in power plants, and gasoline in cars.

But PM 2.5 pollution doesn’t just emanate from controlled combustion. Fossil fuels also contribute to PM 2.5 emissions indirectly: Global warming is increasing the frequency and severity of wildfires, which subject people to huge quantities of particulate matter. The largest wildfire in California’s history, the Camp Fire of 2018, led PM 2.5 levels in the nearby city of Chico to increase by about 12 times the EPA limit.

This all matters because PM 2.5 emissions are extremely deadly. Because PM 2.5 particles are so small, they can easily reach the lungs and even the bloodstream, and long-term exposure can cause a variety of serious health problems, like lung cancer, emphysema, strokes, heart attacks, and cognitive decline.

And we have very good causal evidence that high levels of exposure to PM 2.5 pollution lead to a decline in overall health and life expectancy. Some of the early convincing evidence came from the US, particularly an influentialSix Cities Study” released in 1993. That study found significant relationships between levels of air pollution and overall mortality, driven by higher rates of lung cancer and other lung diseases and heart disease.

A more recent and methodologically strong set of research has focused on China, specifically its “Huai River policy” instituted in the 1950s. The Chinese Communist government had promised free heating in wintertime as a new state-provided benefit, but lacked the resources to offer the benefit nationally. Instead, it only gave free or heavily subsidized coal for heating to households north of the Huai River. The Huai roughly bisects eastern China; Beijing is several hundred miles to its north, and Shanghai slightly to its south.

That meant communities north of the river were exposed to much more particulate pollution from burning coal than communities to the south. Retrospective work comparing lifespans above and below the Huai River suggested that these emissions were incredibly deadly, directly reducing life expectancy by five and a half years for people north of the river compared to those living south of it.

Air pollution is costing millions of lives — and more

Worldwide pollution isn’t quite as bad as it was north of the Huai, but it’s not great either. The University of Chicago’s Air Quality Life Index, which regularly estimates the human toll of particulate pollution, this fall issued a report estimating that the average person on Earth loses 2.2 years of life expectancy due to particulate pollution, compared to a scenario in which every country followed WHO guidelines.

“Alcohol use reduces life expectancy by 9 months; unsafe water and sanitation, 7 months; HIV/AIDS, 4 months; malaria, 3 months; and conflict and terrorism, just 7 days,” researchers Ken Lee and Michael Greenstone write in the report. “Thus, the impact of particulate pollution on life expectancy is comparable to that of smoking, almost three times that of alcohol and drug use and unsafe water, five times that of HIV/AIDS, and 114 times that of conflict and terrorism.”

By their count, lowering air pollution levels below those specified in WHO guidelines would enable people currently alive to enjoy 17 billion more years on Earth, collectively.

And that’s a relatively conservative figure. Shortly after the report’s release, the World Health Organization set stricter guidelines for particulate pollution. Its prior standard, undergirding the UChicago analysis, was that particulate concentration in the air we breathe should be kept to under 10 micrograms (µg, or a millionth of a gram) per cubic meter of air. The new threshold, developed due to evidence that even lower concentrations can be harmful to human health, is half that: 5 µg/m³.

Cutting global air pollution down to that new, lower threshold would save even more millions of life-years.

And the harms of particulate pollution are not limited to life expectancy. Patrick Collison, the entrepreneur and cofounder of Stripe, has taken a research interest in this topic and has a useful compendium of recent work on air pollution harms. Among the studies he highlights:

  • A very small increase in particulate pollution (specifically an increase in PM 2.5 concentration of 1µg/m³) causes, by one estimate, a 0.8 percent reduction in GDP that year, mostly because air pollution increases absenteeism and reduces productivity.
  • Alzheimer’s diagnoses triple when long-term air pollution exposure is substantially increased (by 10 µg/m³). Parkinson’s and dementia diagnoses increase too.
  • Air pollution reduces cognitive functioning in young people. Applying US air pollution standards to China would substantially raise test scores on both reading and math in the latter country, from the median to the 63rd and 58th percentiles respectively.
  • Chess players, baseball umpires, and stock traders all perform worse at their jobs when exposed to more air pollution. Those jobs are unusually easy to quantify, but it stands to reason that people’s performance at other jobs suffers too.

Even if air pollution doesn’t kill you, it probably impedes your cognitive functioning, makes you poorer, and increases your susceptibility to brutal diseases like Alzheimer’s.

How combating climate change can extend life expectancy

Air pollution is a tough problem, but the good news is that we can help solve it by solving another tough problem. Actions to combat global warming can also dramatically cut air pollution deaths.

In 2018, a team of earth scientists at Duke and Columbia universities modeled what would happen to air pollution deaths if the world actually acted to confront climate change. They considered a scenario where 180 fewer gigatons of CO2 are emitted by 2100. That’s roughly the reductions needed to keep warming to 2ºC or below — the goal of the Paris climate agreement.

If we reduce emissions that much, we would prevent about 110 million to 196 million premature deaths by 2100. Averaged over the 80-year period the paper considers, that’s 1.4 million to 2.5 million deaths per year averted. (The improvements would need time to take effect, so more lives would be saved later in the century than in the next 10 years or so.)

The good news is that governments have regulatory levers for reducing air pollution deaths — and some are pulling them. The UChicago Air Quality Life Index report estimates that since 2013, China has reduced air pollution by 29 percent, for an average lifespan extension of 1.5 years for each of its citizens (assuming there’s no backsliding on pollution).

The passage of a stronger version of the Clean Air Act in the US, similarly, was followed by a 50 percent reduction in particulate pollution between 1970 and 1979, aided by a slow economy. Economists Kenneth Chay and Michael Greenstone have estimated that the Clean Air Act caused an immediate and sharp decline in infant mortality in the US.

By their figures, some 1,300 fewer infants died in 1972 than would have if the Clean Air Act amendments of 1970 hadn’t passed. What’s more, research from economists Adam Isen, Maya Rossin-Slater, and W. Reed Walker suggests that the Clean Air Act amendments led children to have higher earnings as adults than they would have had if they’d been exposed to prior levels of pollution.

There are also things you can do at an individual level to mitigate your air pollution intake. My colleague Rebecca Leber wrote about a tool that lets you investigate air quality where you live, and you can help prevent emissions from harming yourself or your loved ones with an electric air purifier (I have two running in my apartment).

But air pollution is not an individual problem, any more than climate change is. The long-term solutions involve setting much stricter regulations or higher taxes targeting particulate emissions, and replacing common sources like coal plants with solar, nuclear, or wind power.

The Biden administration is moving in the right direction. The Environmental Protection Agency, under Biden’s appointee Michael Regan, is reviewing its air quality standards, last reevaluated in 2012, in response to “the strong body of scientific evidence [which] shows that long- and short-term exposures to fine particles (PM2.5) can harm people’s health, leading to heart attacks, asthma attacks, and premature death.” A scientific panel at the EPA has signaled support for lowering the amount of PM 2.5 allowed in the air by as much as a third.

But this is also a global problem that hits the developing world even harder. Spreading green tech to emerging economies like India and Brazil is not just a climate necessity. It’s a public health necessity too.

Dylan Matthews

Source: How humans could live two years longer: Cut air pollution – Vox

.

More contents:

Researchers Warn of Heightened Risk of HIV With Certain COVID-19 Vaccines

As the race to approval of a safe and effective vaccine for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues, a group of researchers is warning some of these vaccines could make patients more susceptible to contracting HIV.

Writing in The Lancet, the researchers are urging caution when it comes to the use of adenovirus type-5 (Ad5) vectored vaccines for COVID-19, recalling their research from a decade ago on an Ad5 vectored vaccine in 2 HIV vaccine trials.

“On the basis of these findings, we are concerned that use of an Ad5 vector for immunisation against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) could similarly increase the risk of HIV-1 acquisition among men who receive the vaccine,” wrote the researchers. “Both the HIV and COVID-19 pandemics disproportionately affect vulnerable populations globally. Roll-out of an effective SARS-CoV-2 vaccine globally could be given to populations at risk of HIV infection, which could potentially increase their risk of HIV-1 acquisition.”

There are several clinical trials assessing Ad5 vectored vaccine candidates underway, including by China’s CanSino Biologics and California-based ImmunityBio.

The group’s ”cautionary tale” stems from the Step and Phambili phase 2b trials that studied the efficacy of an Ad5 vectored HIV-1 vaccine in preventing HIV infection. Across both international studies, they found that the vaccine actually increased the risk of HIV among the vaccinated men.

The findings from the Phambili study, in particular, have important implications for the use of the vaccines in COVID-19, according to the researchers, as findings from this study showed that heterosexual men receiving the Ad5 vectored vaccine faced a consistently increased risk of HIV infection. Notably, this increased risk appeared to be limited to men, with women not having an observed increase of infection in the study.

In the Step trial, the risk of acquiring HIV was particularly high among men who were uncircumcised and Ad5 seropositive men who reported having unprotected anal sex with a partner who was HIV seropositive or who had unknown serostatus as baseline.

Of note, the vaccine in both studies did not have the HIV envelope. Meanwhile, in another study that used a DNA prime and an Ad5 vector, both of which had the HIV envelope, there was no observed increase in HIV infection.

The reason for the observed increase in HIV risk remains uncertain, although several follow-up studies have suggested a potential explanation, according to the researchers.

“The vaccine was highly immunogenic in the induction of HIV-specific CD4 and CD8 T cells; however, there was no difference in the frequency of T-cell responses after vaccination in men who did and did not later become infected with HIV in the Step Study,” they wrote. “These findings suggest that immune responses induced by the HIV-specific vaccine were not the mechanism of increased acquisition.

Participants with high frequencies of preimmunisation Ad5-specific T cells were associated with a decreased magnitude of HIV-specific CD4 responses and recipients of the vaccine had a decreased breadth of HIV-specific CD8 responses, suggesting that pre-existing Ad5 immunity might dampen desired vaccine-induced responses.”

Other exploratory studies have indicated that the vaccine enhances HIV replication in CD4 T cells or that Ad5-specific CD4 T cells could be more susceptible to HIV infection.

Jaime Rosenberg

Reference

Buchbinder SP, McElrath MJ, Dieffenback C, Corey L. Use of adenovirus type-5 vectored vaccines: a cautionary tale. Lancet. Published online October 19, 2020.doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32156-5

Source: http://ajmc.com

.

.

ENewsTrends

A new paper warns the link between COVID-19 vaccines and HIV risk.

Mayo Clinic

Nearly half of people in the U.S. diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, are over 50, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HIV damages the body’s immune system, and interferes with the body’s ability to fight infection and disease. Does that make it more difficult to fight off COVID-19? Dr. Stacey Rizza, an infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic, says, “We know that anybody who has a suppressed immune system may have an altered response to the virus that causes COVID-19. We know that older people whose immune systems are a little weaker, and people who have medical issues or organ diseases, are going to generally do worse with the infection.

If somebody has HIV and their immune system is weaker, meaning they’re not on therapy, or they’re earlier on in their therapy and their CD4 count is still low, they may be at risk of having a worse reaction to the virus. We will learn more about SARS-CoV-2 on people living with HIV over time.” Read more: https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/di… More health and medical news on the Mayo Clinic News Network. https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/ Journalists: Clean and nat sound versions of this pkg available for download at https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/ Register (free) at https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/re…

Should you wish to make a donation, it will help us continue to provide future research and contents due to crisis

Fifty-Two Public Health Groups Demand Facebook Remove Latest Round of ‘Frightening’ HIV Ads

Fifty-two public health companies and LGBTQ organizations wrote a public letter to Facebook Monday demanding it remove misleading advertisements about HIV prevention medicine.

The posts imply that HIV-negative people could suffer health complications from prevention pills only seen in a shrinking group of HIV-positive people, thus deterring them from treatment, the letter claims.

Advocacy groups say that they’re not able to spend a comparable sum on counteradvertising and that Facebook should consider the real-world implications of the ads, which in effect make HIV transmissions more widespread.

Facebook told The Washington Post that its third-party fact-checkers didn’t find falsehoods in the campaign, which is largely pushed by private injury attorneys.

Indeed, a component of Truvada, the only Food and Drug Administration–approved prevention medicine for HIV, has been shown to cause kidney failure and bone density problems in people with HIV treated between 2001 and 2015. The ads don’t include these details and instead reference Truvada more broadly.

Misleading HIV campaigns are nothing new, according to Rich Ferraro, a spokesperson for GLAAD, the national LGBTQ advocacy group that helped spearhead the letter’s demands. He said GLAAD, formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, was founded in the 1980s because of the “misinformation and disgusting coverage of HIV” at the time.

“Since GLAAD’s founding almost 35 years ago, we have worked together with other leaders in the HIV and AIDS activism community fighting back against misinformation, factual inaccuracies and stigmatizing ads,” Ferraro added.

More broadly, today’s HIV campaigns are also noteworthy for what they don’t include—the fact that people with HIV are living very long and healthy lives when taking the proper medications, Ferraro said. “That has been a proactive push that has yet to catch on in mainstream media,” he said.

In 2013, the National Library of Medicine launched a traveling exhibit examining the “confusing and at-times counterproductive” response in the 1980s to the HIV epidemic. In its digital gallery, posters, comic books and postcards offer a range of warnings about HIV transmission.

Some have withstood the test of time, like one campaign by the New York State Department of Health that clarifies that HIV “does not discriminate.” Rather, anyone, male or female, straight or gay, can pick up the virus from shared needles or unprotected sex.

But some warned that AIDS causes blindness or endorsed masturbation in lieu of having sex with strangers. Others associated sex with death more directly, like one poster by AID Atlanta that depicts a handsome young man above a caption that reads: “This man killed 17 women and loved every minute of it,” implying he passed HIV to women during intercourse.

Advertisements abroad could be even more sinister. One featured a grim reaper, meant to represent the deadly HIV virus, that came after men, women and children in a bowling alley. Commissioned by the Australian government with that country’s National Advisory Committee on AIDS, it was pulled in 1987 amid a backlash.

While less dramatic than ads from decades past, the “frightening” Facebook campaigns are doing more damage, according to Peter Staley, a co-founder of PrEP4All Collaboration and longtime AIDS activist. “I must say, this is in a class of its own. This example, we think, is directly spreading HIV,” he said.

The campaigns also target LGBTQ communities and people of color because of their higher rates of HIV infection, according to Raniyah Copeland, president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute. These groups already have more medical distrust than their white or straight counterparts, Copeland said.

One such post features a person of color with a somber look on his face. It lists side effects from “taking an HIV drug,” such as “kidney disorders,” and claims “the manufacturers had a safer drug & kept it secret.” Another features a young white man with his eyes closed and hands clasped. It reads: “Truvada & other TDF drugs prescribed to prevent or treat HIV may harm kidneys and bones.”

Both feature links to law firms or ongoing lawsuits.

In the letter, the advocacy groups asked Facebook to remove the ads and commit to a review of current policies meant to prevent false public health statements from reaching users.

Facebook relies on its independent fact-checkers, including those from the Associated Press and conservative website the Daily Caller, to vet dubious claims, the Post reported.

Asked whether HIV advertisements should be treated with stricter standards, a Facebook spokesperson told Newsweek that its fact-checkers were all certified by the International Fact-Checking Network, which maintains a commitment to nonpartisanship and fairness in its code of principles.

“Since we don’t think it’s appropriate for us to be the arbiters of truth, we rely on the International Fact-Checking Network to set guidelines for these high standards,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

By

Source: Fifty-Two Public Health Groups Demand Facebook Remove Latest Round of ‘Frightening’ HIV Ads

%d bloggers like this: