Sadiq Khan addresses London’s air pollution issue

Air pollution in Europe is a major problem, with a report last year from the European Environment Agency (EEA) linking it to more than 400,000 deaths in the EU and the UK. While this information had already been established, new research has exposed even more dangers of air pollution.

Research from University College London (UCL) found those who live in highly polluted areas are eight percent more likely to suffer from irreversible sight loss, known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

AMD is the leading cause of sight-loss among people over 50 in wealthy countries.

The number of sufferers across the globe is expected to reach 300 million by 2040.

Air pollution had already been linked to an increase in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and glaucoma.

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However, scientists wanted to establish a link between air pollution and AMD.

To do so, they analysed data of 115,954 UK Biobank study participants aged 40 to 69 with no eye problems at the start of this study in 2006.

Participants were asked to disclose any official diagnosis of AMD or “structural changes in the thickness and/or numbers of light receptors in the retina – indicative of AMD”.

They then compared the data with information from the EU Environmental Determinants of Health Project, which looks at pollution levels of particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

The team found those in higher polluted areas were eight percent more likely to be diagnosed with AMD, according to the findings published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

Lead author Professor Paul Foster, from UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, said: “Here we have identified yet another health risk posed by air pollution, strengthening the evidence that improving the air we breathe should be a key public health priority.

“Our findings suggest that living in an area with polluted air, particularly fine particulate matter or combustion-related particles that come from road traffic, could contribute to eye disease.

“Even relatively low exposure to air pollution appears to impact the risk of AMD, suggesting that air pollution is an important modifiable risk factor affecting risk of eye disease for a very large number of people.”

Dr Sharon Chua, of the same institute, who was the paper’s first author, added: “Higher exposure to air pollution was also associated with structural features of AMD.

“This may indicate that higher levels of air pollution may cause the cells to be more vulnerable to adverse changes and increase the risk of AMD.”

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