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Link between strokes and air pollution rise in winter, RCSI research finds

Higher levels of nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide showed a 3.5% higher risk of stroke.

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LEVELS OF DUBLIN air pollution in winter has been linked to a rise in the number of people hospitalised for a stroke, an Irish-led study has found. 

The study, led by researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), was published in a journal called Cerebrovascular Diseases. 

The researchers found a significant rise in the number of hospitalisations for stroke in Dublin zero to two days after a rise in air pollution.

This link was evident after accounting for variables such as temperature, humidity, day of the week and time. 

  • Read more here on how you can support a major Noteworthy project to examine the scale of air pollution in Ireland and the impacts on the health of our vulnerable citizens.

In winter, there are higher levels of particles, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide found in the air due to solid fuel burning and road traffic.  

Higher levels of nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide showed an associated 3.5% higher risk of stroke, the scientists found. 

Higher levels of coarse particles (such as dust) in the air correlated with a 3.2% higher risk and finer particles with a 2.4% higher risk.  

Similar analysis in Cork showed no significant association for all air pollutants. However, meta-analysis showed an association between hospitalisations for strokes and higher levels of nitrogen dioxide and fine particles in the air. 

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Approximately 10,000 people each year have a stroke in Ireland, according to the Irish Heart Foundation charity. 

Dr Colm Byrne, RCSI clinical lecturer and the lead author on this study, said: “Our research adds evidence that there needs to be a national ban on solid fuel burning to help in our efforts to reduce this number.” 

Last month, it was announced the smoky coal ban in Ireland would be extended to all towns with populations of over 10,000 people from 1 September. 

Climate Minister Eamon Ryan said this measure will reduce air pollution and promote public health.

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