Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Air pollution linked to higher heart attack risk

Environment News Service: Scientific evidence is mounting that connects an increase in particulate air pollution with an increase in heart attacks and deaths. Research from the relatively new field of environmental cardiology includes a 16-year-long Harvard University study of six U.S. cities that found fine particulate pollution, even at levels below the federal health standard, can shorten lifespans by two years. A majority of these earlier deaths were due to heart disease.

A study in Salt Lake City found that when a steel mill shut down for a period of months, there was a four to six percent drop in mortality in neighboring areas. The mortality rose to previous levels when the steel mill reopened. A study of 250 metropolitan areas around the world found that a spike in air pollution is followed by a spike in heart attacks.

The people who seem to be most susceptible to environmental pollutants are those who are already vulnerable, including the elderly and people with coronary artery disease. There is some evidence that diabetics, women and people who are obese may be at greater risk. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the industrialized world. In the United States, it kills approximately one million people per year, accounting for over 40 percent of all deaths.

To examine this emerging research in greater detail, Aruni Bhatnagar of the University of Louisville and Robert Brook of the University of Michigan have organized a symposium called Environmental Factors in Heart Disease, to take place April 21 at an Experimental Biology conference in New Orleans. The 120-year-old American Physiological Society is one of the sponsors of the annual conference.

Dr. Bhatnagar, from the Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, University of Louisville, will speak on environmental aldehydes exposure and cardiovascular disease. His research shows that the risk of having a heart attack increases in parallel with time spent in traffic the previous day….

London's smog in 1904, as captured by that noted atmospheric observer, Claude Monet


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