Air Clean Up

  • Can Aspirin Protect You From Air Pollution?

Can Aspirin Protect You From Air Pollution?

Oct 22 2019 Read 353 Times

A new collaborative study by several universities in the United States suggests that taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin may have a beneficial effect on the human body when exposed to air pollution. Concentrating on an older generation of males, the research showed that the anti-inflammatory properties of aspirin may mitigate some of the worst impacts of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5).

While tackling the problem at its root cause is undoubtedly the ideal solution to air pollution, there are bound to be times when PM2.5 concentrations spike, especially in towns and cities across the world. For this reason, short-term fixes like aspirin could represent an effective strategy of reducing the detrimental impact that PM2.5 has on the lungs.

Encouraging results

The study was a joint project between the Boston University School of Medicine, the Harvard Chan School of Public Health and the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. The subject pool consisted of 2,280 older males with an average age of 73 years, who were subjected to rigorous health tests to assess their lung capacity and capability.

This data was then cross-referenced against their own self-reported consumption of NSAIDs and against information collected by sophisticated PM air quality measurements and black carbon concentrations in the month prior to the tests to determine what, if any, effect the drugs had on their lung functionality. The results were also adjusted to accommodate the healthiness of each individual subject and other factors, such as whether they smoked regularly or not.

The outcome of the study was conclusive. Those who used NSAIDs at any point in the month-long research period experienced roughly 50% fewer detrimental effects from the PM than those who did not. Since the vast majority of participants took aspirin as their NSAID of choice, the researchers are encouraged by its performance in particular, but they stated they were also optimistic about the efficacy of non-aspirin NSAIDs.

Other methods of mitigation

The research is not the first to find that pharmaceuticals may be beneficial in lessening the most serious consequences of prolonged exposure to PM. Two years ago, a study from the Harvard School of Public Health looked into how vitamins can protect you from pollution, with vitamin B found to be especially beneficial. Participants showed between a 28% and 76% resistance to PM2.5 after taking high dosages of vitamin B, but it was slightly limited in that the sample size was relatively small.

More recently, a Chinese study from May of this year investigated the effects that fish oil supplements can have in mitigating the most severe impacts of air pollution. The students who were issued with a 2.5 supplement of omega-3 fatty acids were shown to have significantly more stable biomarkers than those given a placebo, suggesting that fish oil could be another effective tactic in protecting against high concentrations of PM2.5.

However, discoveries like these should not distract from the primary aims in the fight against air pollution - which is curbing its presence altogether. Achieving that goal requires a concerted effort from all facets of society, from the government officials who put in place preventative policies to the businesses who follow eco-friendly means of operation to the man on the street with his daily routines. Only together will we clean up our airways, once and for all.

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