FILE PHOTO: A runner jogs at Primrose Hill with the BT Tower and the London Eye in the background as a high air pollution warning was issued for London on March 24, 2022. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A new study published on Wednesday (31) said that ethnic minorities are more affected by higher exposure to air pollution than the rest of the UK population.
The study by researchers at the University of St Andrews also revealed that people from Indian, Pakistani/Bangladeshi, and black/African/Caribbean backgrounds tended to report worse health if they were exposed to higher levels of air pollution compared to white British people.
People born outside the UK also had worse health when they were exposed to more air pollution.
The study pointed out that ethnic inequalities in health and environmental exposures exist in society.
Air pollution has been demonstrated as a significant factor contributing to adverse health effects, primarily affecting the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.
The study, led by Mary Abed Al Ahad, from the University’s School of Geography and Sustainable Development, investigated the association between long-term exposure to air pollution and poor self-reported health in the country.
The objective of the study was to determine whether people from diverse ethnic backgrounds and those born outside the UK experience a higher susceptibility to the adverse effects of air pollution compared to the general population.
The research used data from the Understanding Society: The UK household Longitudinal Study, which asked around 68,000 adults about their health over a period of 11 years.
“This study provides evidence that outdoor air pollution is bad for health and highlights the ethnic inequalities in health and air pollution exposure. Air pollution mitigation is necessary to improve individuals’ health, especially for ethnic minorities who are affected the most,” said Al Ahad.
As part of the study, researchers also used comprehensive data on the air pollution levels in the participants’ respective residential areas.
The study revealed a correlation between elevated levels of specific air pollutants and deteriorating overall health, primarily attributed to individuals’ residential locations rather than changes in pollution levels over time.
“There is increasing recognition of the role that air pollution plays in long-term health problems. This novel research following people across time and in different locations demonstrates a strong association between several pollutants and self-reported health. This was particularly true for people in ethnic minorities and people born overseas who now live in the UK,” said Professor Frank Sullivan from the School of Medicine.
These findings follow on research conducted by Al Ahad last year, which investigated the association between residing in highly polluted areas and mental well-being.