Sat, Sep 07, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Researchers link pollution to age-related vision loss

By Huang Chung-shan and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

China Medical University professors Juo Suh-hang, left, and Liang Chung-ling hold up a copy of the Journal of Investigative Medicine that contains their research on age-related macular degeneration at a news conference in Taichung yesterday.

Photo: Huang Chung-shan, Taipei Times

A study by Taiwanese researchers published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine demonstrates a correlation between road traffic-related air pollutants and an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration.

The study aimed to discern whether ambient nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide increase the risk for age-related macular degeneration, said its coauthors, Chinese Medical University professors Juo Suh-hang (卓夙航) and Liang Chung-ling (梁中玲).

The two gases are primarily emissions from the incineration of waste, coal-fired power plants and vehicle exhausts, they said.

The study was the first to prove a direct correlation between ambient gases and the medical condition, they added.

The researchers said that they used National Health Insurance data from 2000 to 2010 to select subjects aged 50 or older, and calculated their total annual exposure to nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide between 1998 and 2010.

Of 39,819 people who did not have macular degeneration selected for the research, 1,442 developed the condition over the 12-year period, the study found.

People living in areas heavily polluted with nitrogen dioxide saw a 91 percent increase in the likelihood of developing the condition, while those living in areas with heavy carbon monoxide pollution had an 85 percent increase in risk, the study found.

Age-related macular degeneration is caused by gases entering the bloodstream, which carries them to the eyes, Juo said.

In its early stages, the condition is treatable, but not entirely curable, and is difficult to diagnose, Liang said.

People should avoid exercising in areas through which many vehicles pass to reduce the amount of nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide they inhale, they said.

As the increased risk is due to the gases entering the bloodstream and not from direct contact, use of protective goggles is unnecessary, they added.

The study was published by the official journal of the American Federation for Medical Research on Aug. 19.

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