Residents’ arthritis risk as Warrington tops UK pollution list

WARRINGTON residents face a higher risk of catching diseases where the body’s immune system attacks itself – including arthritis, warns a new study.

It comes after Warrington topped the UK’s most polluted list after the World Health Organisation named 42 British towns and cities for breaking pollution limits.

Breathing in fumes from cars and factories on a daily basis could increase people’s chances of developing arthritis by 40 per cent, say scientists.

People who live in polluted areas also face higher odds of having other autoimmune conditions like connective tissue and inflammatory bowel diseases.

The number of people affected by these conditions has steadily climbed over the past decade, but the reasons why have remained unclear.

Now researchers at the University of Verona in Italy have come up with a possible explanation – air pollution, and the findings were published in the BMJ journal RMD Open.

Study author Dr Giovanni Adami said: “Environmental air pollution from vehicle exhaust and industrial output can trigger adaptive immunity, whereby the body reacts to a specific disease-causing entity.

“But sometimes this adaptive response misfires, prompting systemic inflammation, tissue damage, and ultimately autoimmune disease.”

Medical information on 81,363 men and women collected by doctors between June 2016 and November 2020 was analysed by the researchers.

People breathing in high levels of pollution were more likely to develop an autoimmune disease, the researchers found.

Long-term exposure to traffic and industrial air pollutants increased people’s risk of having arthritis by 40 per cent.

The same was true for inflammatory bowel disease and connective tissue diseases, which jumped by 20 and 25 per cent respectively.

In response to the findings, a Warrington Borough Council spokesman said: “We operate a targeted monitoring programme to measure air quality across the borough, which includes monitoring for fine particulates.

“Air pollution levels fluctuate year-on-year, not only as a result of emissions, but also depending on the effects of the weather.

“It is therefore important that we also look at trends, which shows that air quality has been improving over the last five years.

“We have carried out a modelling exercise to predict pollution levels across the borough to 2036, and this shows further improvements in levels of PM2.5, sources of which include traffic, industry and domestic burning.

“We acknowledge the health impacts from poor air quality and have produced a Joint Strategic Need Assessment on Air Quality with our public health team.

“While pollution levels are predicted to improve, we have produced an Air Quality Action Plan which sets out a series of measures to further improve air quality.

“It should be noted that air pollution levels in Warrington are typical of other similar sized local authorities and are not to the extent where we are mandated by the Government to take further action beyond our current action plan to improve air quality.

“We remain committed to improving air quality across the borough and to improving the health of all its residents.”

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