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Studies Show Air Pollution May Be Even More Dangerous Than Thought

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Air Pollution In New York

A study says air pollution may be more dangerous even than thought. (Credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Officials estimate that the effects of air pollution kill 35,000 people a year.

Air pollution has now been linked to everything from heart attacks to cancer and strokes, and research is now pointing to more widespread health effects – and people may be at risk even when pollution levels are deemed safe.

It is all in the air we breathe – pollutants that a new study suggests may be even more dangerous to our health than first thought.

One report found the risk of stroke increased 30 percent just 12 to 14 hours after pollution rose to moderate levels. Another study showed decline in memory and attentions spans also on days when pollution levels were deemed safe, CBS 2’s Kristine Johnson reported Tuesday.

“We’re seeing real negative health effects, even at the levels that have been considered safe,” said Isabelle Silverman of the Environmental Defense Fund.

New studies even link exposure to traffic pollution to autism. The most recent report tracked pregnant women who were exposed to the highest levels of vehicle emissions, and whose babies were also exposed after birth.

Those children were three times more likely to be autistic as were children of women exposed to the lowest levels.

“It definitely moves us closer to a link,” said Alycia Halladay of Autism Speaks. “What we need to know now is why this link occurs; what goes on on the molecular cellular level to link air pollution to autism.”

New York City has taken action to cut down on vehicle emissions. Most city buses use clean air technology, and engineers monitor and change traffic flow to ease congestion.

But the law that limits the time drivers can leave motors running is rarely enforced, and CBS 2 found, easily ignored.

“I see some of the places there is a sign and everything, but there is no sign over here,” one motorist running a motor said.

“I’m leaving right now,” another said. “I am waiting for somebody.”

On another front, environmentalists say they expect to see a big drop in pollution thanks to a rule requiring buildings that burn the dirtiest oil switch to less-polluting fuel. Meanwhile, later this month, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to strengthen air quality standards, which will force other improvements and help New Yorkers breathe easier.

City officials said air pollution contributes to approximately 6 percent of all deaths each year in New York.

What do you think should be done to reduce pollution? Leave your comments below…

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