city smogIf I told you that pollution is bad for your health, would you be surprised? Yeah, didn't think so. Yet two new studies underscore that even levels of regular old everyday pollution previously considered totally safe, from a health perspective, can, in fact, increase your risk for heart attack and stroke

If the results of the study are confirmed, experts say it may change the way public-health officials respond to pollution, inspiring stricter standards and tougher regulations. It could also change the advice doctors give to people with cardiovascular disease and lung problems, prompting them to suggest they be more careful and take greater care even on days when smog had not previously been considered at levels that could cause difficulty.

According to the studies, even cities with levels of pollution previously deemed to be well under the danger threshold may place us at increased risk for heart attack and stroke. But though the new results may affect how pollution is regulated (let's hope!), it probably won't make us die-hard city dwellers head for the fragrant hills of the countryside. (Though that does, in many ways, sound appealing.) After all, most of us have probably long since accepted the risks associated with our choices -- and found ways to rationalize what we may sacrifice, healthwise, for the pace and excitement and opportunities our beloved cities provide.

Plus, let's not forget, there are health benefits to living in cities, too. For instance, we may walk more than we would if we lived in the suburbs, and that extra exercise can help stave off obesity and other issues. Also, our access to reliable public transportation may mean we spend less time in cars and escape some of the risks associated with driving.

And anyway, if we keel over on the street (possibly from all that pollution), at least there's almost sure to be someone nearby to respond and get us help. If they feel like helping us, anyway ...

What do you think of the new research concluding that even "safe" levels of pollution can harm our health?

 

Image via JoshuaDavisPhotography/Flickr