Study: Unhealthy air in Fairbanks linked to rise in hospital visits

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Tuesday, August 31, 2010:

Hospital visits for heart disease, stroke and lung afflictions in Fairbanks rise as the air quality deteriorates, according to new study by the state of Alaska.

A researcher with the state Section of Epidemiology combed over five years of records at the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. She found that for every 10 micrograms per cubic meter increase of a harmful pollutant known as PM2.5:

• a 7 percent increased risk that someone under age 65 will visit the hospital because of stroke symptoms,

• a 6 percent increased risk for people over age 65,

• a 6 percent increased risk that someone under 65 will visit the hospital for a respiratory illness.

The examination of hospital visits is the first study looking at air quality health impacts in Fairbanks.

Other studies show that wood smoke is a major contributor to PM2.5.

“Basically, this study reaffirms what has already been demonstrated in similar studies performed outside of Alaska,” the study’s author, epidemiologist Rachel Kossover, said in a written statement. “People with heart and lung problems need to take air quality warnings seriously and follow the advice of local officials.”