Last reviewed 2 February 2021

A study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology has found that small increases in air pollution are associated with more cases of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of permanent vision loss in people aged over 60.

In the UK, about 5% of people over 65 years old have the disease which happens when the small central portion of the retina, called the macula, wears down.

The study, the first to assess the connection between outdoor air pollution and diagnoses of AMD, concluded that greater exposure to PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) was associated with self-reported AMD.

It found a small increase in exposure to tiny pollution particles raised the risk of AMD by 8%.

While the biggest risk factors for AMD are genetics and poor physical health issues (smoking and obesity), the impact of air pollution is going to become a bigger risk factor as lifestyles become healthier, according to the research.

In this context, the British Safety Council (BSC)and King's College London have developed Canairy, the world's first free mobile app to help employers and workers minimise the risks of polluted air to outdoor workers.

Providing real-time information about air pollution levels for London-based employers and workers, the app calculates a user's hourly exposure to nitrogen dioxide, ozone and the tiny particulates PM2.5 and PM10.

It then compares these exposure levels to World Health Organization (WHO) guidance.

BSC Chief Executive, Mike Robinson, said: “Air pollution is being linked to an increasingly wide range of diseases and this finding is significant. The Government needs to act now to ensure it adopts the WHO air pollution targets. The Environment Bill currently making its passage through Parliament is the perfect opportunity to do so.”