`Ozone-related deaths to increase in next 60 years

Last Updated: Thursday, September 29, 2011 - 15:22

Washington: Climate change may be worse for the lungs, as ozone pollution-related deaths are likely to increase in certain regions in the next 60 years, scientists have warned.
Researchers have predicted that certain countries such as Belgium, France, Spain and Portugal may witness an increase in ozone pollution deaths between 10 and 14 per cent during the period.

However, Nordic and Baltic countries are expected to see a drop in such deaths, they said at the European Respiratory Society`s Annual Congress in Amsterdam, LiveScience reported.

Ozone is a two-faced gas. High in the stratosphere, it forms a protective layer that blocks ultraviolet radiation, which is potentially harmful to life, keeping it from reaching the surface of the planet.

This happens at roughly 12.4 miles (20 km) above the Earth`s surface. Closer to the surface of the planet, ozone is a pollutant that can act as a greenhouse gas, trapping energy and warming the planet.

Breathing ozone can also cause health problems, including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation and congestion, said the researchers.

It can aggravate conditions like bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma, as well as reduce lung function and inflame the linings of the lungs, and repeated exposure to ozone may permanently scar lung tissue, they said.

The researchers led by Bertil Forsberg at Umea University of Sweden made the ozone-related death projections as part of work the Climate-TRAP project to prepare for the changing public health needs expected to accompany human-caused climate change.

They used two emissions scenarios -- one for high growth, the other moderate -- and two climate models to simulate how future ozone levels would be affected by climate change.

The researchers compared four periods, the baseline period 1961 to 1990, the current situation 1990 to 2009,near future 2021 to 2050 and further future 2041 to 2060.

When comparing the baseline period with the current situation, they found the largest increase in ozone-related deaths, of less than 4 per cent, occurred in Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands and the UK.

Comparing the baseline period and the further future, the biggest increase, of 10-14 per cent, was projected in Belgium, France, Spain and Portugal. However, Nordic and Baltic countries may see a 10 to 14 per cent drop in ozone-related deaths, they found.

According to the researchers, ozone pollution forms when sunlight acts on certain chemicals, including nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds.

Rise in temperature can increase these photochemical reactions, so warmer days correlate with higher ozone levels.

However, there is a great deal of uncertainty in predicting how climate change will affect ozone levels, they added.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, September 29, 2011 - 15:22

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