Warning: The hidden health risk in your home that could hike your risk of death by 23%

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Living a long and fulfilling life means eschewing habits that will hasten your demise. That might seem obvious enough but many decisions you make contain hidden health risks. Wood burning stoves are a prime example of this.

Many Britons use wood burning stoves to heat their homes for they bring a quaint charm.

Increasingly, as the cost of living crisis deepens, they are also being seen as an attractive alternative to central heating.

However, wood and coal burners emit tiny particulate matter – called PM2.5 and PM10 – which can cause a host of serious health issues, such as heart disease.

Indeed, a new study published in PLOS ONE makes manifest the harms posed by wood burning stoves.

Researchers gathered their findings come from personal and environmental health data collected from 50,045 mostly poor, rural villagers living in the northeast Golestan region of Iran.

All study participants were over age 40 and agreed to have their health monitored during annual visits with researchers dating as far back as 2004.

The researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai showed that exposure to above average levels of outdoor air pollution increased risk of death by 20 percent, and risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 17 percent.

However, using wood- or kerosene-burning stoves, not properly ventilated through a chimney, to cook food or heat the home increased overall risk of death (by 23 percent and nine percent) and cardiovascular death risk (by 36 percent and 19 percent).

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What else did the study reveal?

Living far from specialty medical clinics and near busy roads also increased risk of death.

Researchers said their latest investigation not only identifies environmental factors that pose the greatest risk to heart and overall health, but also adds much-needed scientific evidence from people in low- and middle-income countries.

Traditional research on environmental risk factors, the researchers noted, has favoured urban populations in high-income countries with much greater access to modern health care services.

Compared with those who have easier access to specialised medical services, those living farther away from clinics with catheterisation labs able to unblock clogged arteries, for example, were at increased risk of death by one percent for every 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) of distance.

In Golestan, most people live more than 50 miles (80 kilometres) away from such modern facilities.

Study results also showed that the one-third of study participants who lived within 500 meters (1,640 feet) of a major roadway had a 13 percent increased risk of death.

“Our study highlights the role that key environmental factors of indoor/outdoor air pollution, access to modern health services, and proximity to noisy, polluted roadways play in all causes of death and deaths from cardiovascular disease in particular,” said study senior author and cardiologist Rajesh Vedanthan, MD, MPH.

Professor Vedanthan continued: “Our findings help broaden the disease-risk profile beyond age and traditional personal risk factors.”

“These results illustrate a new opportunity for health policymakers to reduce the burden of disease in their communities by mitigating the impact of environmental risk factors like air pollution on cardiovascular health,” said study lead author Michael Hadley, MD, a fellow in cardiology and incoming assistant professor of medicine at Mount Sinai.

By contrast, the study showed that other environmental factors included in the analysis – low neighbourhood income levels, increased population density, and too much nighttime light exposure – were not independent predictors of risk of death, despite previous research in mostly urban settings suggesting otherwise.

For the investigation, researchers analysed data gathered through December 2018. They then created a predictive model on overall death risk and death risk from cardiovascular disease.

According to some scientists, log burners triple the level of harmful pollution inside UK homes.

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