Air pollution, especially one type that is worsening with global warming, can accelerate lung disease as quickly as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, new research released Tuesday shows.

The study published on August 13 in the journal JAMA by researchers at the University of Washington, Columbia University, and the University at Buffalo, doubles down on the link between air pollutants and lung disease. It also emphasizes the connection between the lung ailment emphysema and pollution from ground-level ozone, the main ingredient in smog (not to be confused with the ozone layer).

Air pollutants have long been associated with both cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Chronic lower respiratory disease is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, and the third leading cause worldwide.

But Tuesday’s study, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), showed an increase in emphysema after exposure to pollutants like PM2.5 — fine particulate matter already linked to a staggering number of deaths — as well as black carbon.

Most notable was the impact of ozone. While other air pollutants are largely decreasing nationwide, ozone is increasing — with severe public health ramifications.  […]