Air Pollution Raises Risk of Heart Death
Air Pollution May Be More Dangerous to the Heart Than Lungs
Dec. 15, 2003 -- Breathing polluted air day after day may be
more dangerous to you heart than to your lungs researchers say.
New studies add to mounting evidence that air pollution is a
risk factor for heart disease. The most recent, shows the risk of dying from
heart disease is greater than from lung-related illnesses when exposed to air
Researchers say the findings confirms recent studies that show
air pollution provokes inflammation not only in the lungs but inflammation
which also speeds hardening of the arteries, and affects heart function. Those
negative effects are much greater in smokers.
The study showed that for every increase unit in air pollutant
measure, the risk of death caused by heart disease in major U.S. cities rose by
8% to 18%, and heart disease death posed a much greater threat to people living
in polluted areas than lung disease.
The results appear in the Dec. 16 rapid access issue of
Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Air Pollution Hurts Heart too
In the study, researchers linked data on risk factors and death
collected from about half a million people who participated in the Cancer
Prevention Study II by the American Cancer Society to information on air
pollution from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Researchers focused on fine particulate matter air pollution,
microscopic particles in the air that measure less than 2.5 micrometers in
diameter, which is about the size of cigarette smoke particles.
Between 1982 and 1998, 22.5% of the people involved in the
study died, and researchers found a clear association between air pollution and
They found 45% of all deaths in the study were caused by heart
disease, such as heart attack, heart failure, and cardiac arrest. Lung disease
accounted for only about 8% of the deaths.
For every increase of in air pollutants of 10 micrograms per
cubic meter of air, the risk of all heart disease and diabetes rose by 12% and
heart disease alone rose by 18%.
Compared with people who had never smoked, researchers found
former smokers had a 26% higher risk of death from heart disease and diabetes.
Current smokers had a 94% higher risk of death from heart disease and diabetes
for every increase in air pollutant measure.
Researchers acknowledge that air pollution is not the main
cause of heart disease, and many other factors, such as diet and lifestyle,
play a role. But a greater understanding about the link between air pollution
and heart disease could have important implications.
"We might be able to reduce the underlying processes of
some cardiovascular disease just by reducing the exposure to air pollutants.
And possibly, there may be ways to mitigate the impacts of air pollution, such
as anti-inflammatory medications or other interventions," says researcher
C. Arden Pope, III, PhD, an epidemiologist at Brigham Young University in
Provo, Utah, in a news release.