Fairbanks, Ak., air pollution leads to more hospital visits, study finds

Here's more bad news for Fairbanks on air pollution: A new state health study shows when pollution levels from tiny particulates rise in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, more people go to the hospital.

The state Department of Health's study of 5,718 hospital visits showed a 6 percent increased risk of a hospital visit for respiratory problems in people under age 65, and 6 to 7 percent added risk of a hospital visit for stroke-related issues. The higher rate of stroke-related visits applies to people both over and under 65.

The report, released Monday, reviewed Fairbanks Memorial Hospital admissions from 2003 to 2008 and emergency room visits from 2008.

It compared that information with Fairbanks pollution data and found the rate of hospital visits is related to worsening levels of particulates.

The borough's particulate problem is largely due to wood-burning stoves and outdoor wood-boilers, said Glenn Miller, borough transportation director. Smoky skies from summer forest fires also contribute.

The new study's author, public health specialist Rachel Kossover, concluded that people should pay attention to the local alerts that tell when it's safe for people in each health risk group to go outside, or exercise, for example.

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