Published:  12:00 AM, 16 March 2017

Cure for air pollution victims

A recent report published in the journal of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) says, high doses of Vitamin B can offer some protection against the impacts of air pollution. The study says air pollution seems to alter genes in the immune system at the epigenetic level switching them on or off, and inhibiting body defenses.

 An international team of scientists wanted to see if exposure to concentrations of PM2.5 could be mitigated by a daily B vitamin supplement containing 2.5mg of folic acid, 50mg of vitamin B6, and 1mg of vitamin B12.

 Ten volunteers were tested initially exposed to clean air while given a placebo to measure their basic responses. The same volunteers were later tested with large doses of B vitamins while exposed to air containing high levels of PM2.5.

The researchers found that a four-week B vitamin supplementation limited the PM2.5 effect by between 28-76% at ten gene locations. They found a similar reduction in impact on the mitochondrial DNA, the parts of cells that generate energy.

While the impacts of air pollution on health have become a cause of growing concern to people all around the world, the actual mechanics of exactly how dirty air makes people sick are not clearly understood yet.

 According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 90% of the world's population lives in areas where air pollution exceeds safety guidelines. WHO further says, one of the pollutants that is considered the most dangerous is very fine particulate matter, referred to as PM2.5, where particles have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers.

These complex particulates come from diesel cars, wood burning stoves and as a by-product of chemical reactions between other polluting gases. At around 1/30 the width of a human hair, PM2.5 fragments can lodge deep in the human lung and contribute to lung and heart health issues in the young and old.

 Scientists have long suspected that PM2.5 causes what are termed epigenetic changes in cells that can damage health. The genes in human DNA contain the instructions for life, but epigenetic controls how those instructions are used.

At the young age, man is not easily affected by pollution. All external and internal organs are in full function and the body can absorb enough nutrition from whatever people eat. But as people become aged body grows frail and can't digest all kinds of food. In recent years, longevity of human life has increased because of the progress of health and medicare.

 Nowadays people look young even when they become old if they take balanced food and lead disciplined life. There are not the required number of nutritionists in Bangladesh and people usually don't care for balanced diet when they eat. A 2016 report from Global Burden of Disease Project says, air pollution kills 5.5 million people each year. Bangladesh is one of the countries that is adversely affected by air pollution.

 Hence, health authorities of Bangladesh should take note of this new finding on the medical front. More studies are needed to assess the effectiveness of vitamin B before spreading this awareness among people. Studies need to be done in moderately to most environments.

A more sophisticated study is urgently needed  just to see whether the medication is useful to those who are chronically exposed. Yet, administering vitamins or medicines are curative measures. Bangladesh needs to think of preventive measures. Balanced diet, exercise and favorable environment are the prerequisites for normal life. Protective measures are needed where the environment is adverse.

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